Future calendar change possible for Gilbert Public Schools

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Gilbert Public Schools is considering a change in its calendar for two years from now, one that would give students two-week breaks in the fall and spring but a shorter summer break.

The calendar would be similar to ones used in neighboring districts Chandler, Higley and Queen Creek.

In a work-study session Wednesday, the Gilbert Public Schools governing board heard from Assistant Superintendent Suzanne Zentner about the district’s options for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years.

The choice comes down to a “1-2-1” option, as the district uses now, with one-week fall and spring breaks and a  two-week break at winter, or a “2-2-2” option with two weeks for all three breaks. The tradeoff would be a summer that is shorter by two weeks, though the district would finish the school year before Memorial Day in each case.

District Director of Marketing and Communications Dawn Antestenis conducted an email survey in October of parents and staff members about their preference between the two choices.

Of the 35,563 parents sent the email, 8,386 responded, a response rate of 23.5 percent, with 52 percent preferring staying with the 1-2-1 option.

Board member Charles Santa Cruz expressed concern about the low response rate, but Antestenis said it was enough for the survey to be considered statistically significant.

Among the 5,717 certified and support staff members sent the survey, 2,116 responded, a rate of 37 percent. Unlike the parents, staffers preferred the 2-2-2 option with 63 percent opting for that choice.

Santa Cruz and board President Sheila Uggenti, each with many years’ experience in the district, said they were surprised how close the survey was among parents, as in the past parents had strongly opposed a 2-2-2 option.

Board member Jill Humpherys urged caution with making a change because of the way it affects families’ calendars in doing things such as vacation.

The board will likely have the calendar on the agenda at its next meeting Nov. 20. Zentner was unsure if staff would be making a recommendation on an option or if they would leave it to the board to make a choice.

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Tom Blodgett
Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent 30 years in journalism in Arizona and is the editor of the Gilbert edition of Community Impact Newspaper. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he now serves as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.
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