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Tulsa Schools Consider Changing School Start Date

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Tulsa Public Schools will soon decide whether to push back the starting date for classes next year. The district's calendar committee met Tuesday to study survey results on the question of how early is too early to start school.

Tulsa schools opened on the hottest day of 1999. Not only did temperatures reach 107 on August 11th; air conditioning broke down at several sites. This combination aroused a controversy over Tulsa's early school opening. Superintendent John Thompson directed schools to survey parents, staff and students on the calendar question. The calendar committee chairman says he isn't surprised with the results. "Generally, we found that elementary and middle schools would like to start a week later, and in general, high schools like the schedule the way it is. We also found that they like their holidays at all levels,” said committee chairman Dr. Jerry Rogers.

Results of the survey include:

 On the question of when to start the school year, high schools preferred the second week of August, same as this year. But elementary and middle schools preferred starting a week later.

 High schools considered ending school before Memorial Day very important; the majority of middle and elementary schools, not important.

 On the question of ending the first semester before winter break, most schools said yes. But again, only high schools think it's important to be in sync with Tulsa Tech and suburban districts.

The committee will consider four start dates for the year 2000: August 9, 16, 23, and September 5th. The calendar committee has grown from 12 to 30 members; half of them are parents. The rest are teachers, principals and support personnel from all grade levels. Not all schools in the district returned surveys, and the district didn't require any particular survey method. "Sometimes it was handled through PTA,” said Rogers. “Sometimes it was handled through meetings. Some of the schools may have sent surveys home, but I think it varied from school to school. We let them determine that," he explained.

Since the surveys showed little support for starting school after Labor Day, it looks like Tulsa Public Schools will still open in August. Rogers says the committee will consider the preferences of different groups but will ultimately decide on what's best for students. Rogers plans to deliver the committee's recommendation to the superintendent by November 30th. The calendar requires final approval by the superintendent and school board.

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