The Unalaska School Board is considering changes to the district calendar and is seeking community feedback.
At their Wednesday meeting, board members discussed three different options for future school year schedules, one of which was drafted by member Kerry Mahoney. It pushes back the entire school year and places the first day of school on September 5, about two to three weeks later than usual.
“This [calendar] is offered around what I think is great for family life,” Mahoney said at the reunion.
Having all of August free allows families vacationing on the island more time to enjoy the short Aleutian summers, she said.
“I like the idea of enjoying the fullness of August before diving into the hustle and bustle of school and sports,” Mahoney said.
His draft also moves the end of the first quarter from before the winter holidays to the end of January. Mahoney said this allows older children to enjoy holiday gatherings and events more, rather than worrying about finals, which often take place shortly before winter vacation begins.
Athletic director and high school principal Jim Wilson said he’s concerned moving the first day of school to September will negatively affect fall sports like cross country and swimming.
The Alaska Schools Activities Association still expects districts to begin practices in August, in preparation for regional and state tournaments, he said.
“You might find that makes kids maybe not want to swim or cross-country, if they start a month or a month and a half later than everyone else,” Wilson said.
Delaying day one so significantly, he said, would disadvantage these student-athletes.
Mahoney’s schedule also pushes the last day of school to June 14, after the general layoff around mid-May.
Joni Scott, a cross-country coach and preschool teacher, worries that pushing school so far – when days last until 5 p.m. – will exhaust children mentally and physically.
“When you go at the end of June, and they’re now two or three months old where they only sleep seven hours, their brain can’t function and learn,” she says.
Trustees say Mahoney’s draft could also make summer school a challenge as he would push it back to the end of the summer. Staff and parents at the meeting said families often don’t want to stay so late in the summer.
Any changes the board makes to the schedule would not go into effect until the fall of 2023. They plan to reevaluate the options at their next meeting on April 20.
Board members say they would like to hear from community members about proposed drafts for the school year. The administration has not decided when a final choice will have to be made. If necessary, they can wait until next fall to choose.
Previous calendars as well as a blank template – which community members are encouraged to fill out – can be found at neighborhood website. Trustees say board drafts will soon be available online.