Unalaska school board considers adopting new calendar for fall 2023
The Unalaska school board is considering switching up the district’s calendar and is looking for input from the community.
At their meeting Wednesday, board members discussed three different options for future school year schedules, one of which was drafted by member Kerry Mahoney. It pushes the entire school year back and puts the first day of school on Sept. 5, about two to three weeks later than usual.
“This [calendar] is proposed around what I think is great for family life,” Mahoney said at the meeting.
Having the entire month of August off allows families that spend their vacation on the island to have more time enjoying the short Aleutian summers, she said.
“I like the idea of enjoying the fullness of August before we jump into the busyness of school and sports,” Mahoney said.
Her draft also moves the end of the first quarter from before the winter break to late January. Mahoney said that allows the older kids to enjoy holiday gatherings and events more, rather than stressing about finals, which often happen shortly before the winter vacation begins.
Athletic Director and High School Principal Jim Wilson said he worries that moving the first day of school into September could have negative effects on fall sports like cross country and swimming.
The Alaska Schools Activities Association is still going to expect districts to start practices in August, in preparation for regional and state tournaments, he said.
“You may find that causes kids to maybe not want to swim or do cross country, if they're starting a month or month and a half later than everybody else,” Wilson said.
Delaying the first day so significantly, he said, would put those student athletes at a disadvantage.
Mahoney’s calendar also pushes the final day of school out to June 14, later than the general dismissal around mid-May.
Cross country coach and preschool teacher Joni Scott worries that pushing school out that far — when the days are edging on 17 hours long — would wear the kids out mentally and physically.
“When you're going to the end of June, and they've now had two or three months where they're only getting seven hours of sleep, their brains cannot function and learn,” she said.
Mahoney’s draft may also make summer school a challenge as it would push it into late summer, according to administrators. Staff and parents at the meeting said families don’t often want to stick around that late in the summer.
Any changes the board makes to the calendar wouldn’t go into effect until fall of 2023. They plan to reevaluate the options at their next meeting on Apr. 20.
Board members say they’d like to hear from community members about the proposed school year drafts. Administration hasn’t decided when a final choice will need to be made. If necessary, they may wait until the upcoming fall to choose.
Previous calendars as well as a blank template — which community members are encouraged to fill out — can be found on the district’s website. Administrators say the board’s drafts will be available online soon.