EARLIER: New school out date: June 8

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Parents argue against Saturdays, late graduation

By Todd Martin

The Shelby County School Board voted unanimously Thursday to extend the school year until June 8, with graduation currently scheduled for Saturday, June 12. The last day for staff would be June 9.

Four members of the board - Doug Butler, Eddie Mathis, Alan Phillips and Brenda Jackson - voted for the later closing date. Board member Sam Hinkle was absent from the meeting.

This decision sparked a lively discussion on The Sentinel-News' Facebook page.

Gary Kidwell, the director of student accounting and support services, provided the board with six options:

1. Going to school on two Saturdays (March 20 and 27), which would make the end of the school year June 4.

2. Adding two more make-up days to the end of the calendar, moving the end of school into the second week of June, and ending June 8.

3. Reducing the calendar by two instructional days because Shelby County has the required amount of instructional time (1,062 hours) without the two extra days.

4. Reduce the calendar by one day and attend on one Saturday (March 27).

5. Go to school on three Saturdays, and the students' final day would be June 3.

6. Attend school on the first three days of spring break (April 5-7), and the students' last day would be June 3.

The board accepted choice number 2.

Two parents spoke before the board's discussion, urging them to find different ways to amend the calendar rather than attend school on Saturdays or extend the year into the second week of June.

Stephanie Petersen is a parent of a senior, and she said her daughter could not attend school on June 7 and 8 because of a scheduled overnight college orientation.

"People forget how fast we have to get into college mode right after graduation," she said. "And there's graduation parties and people coming in from out of town."

Petersen also noted how her daughter would have had a conflict with the March 27 Saturday, and would not have been able to attend school that afternoon.

Kimberly Aiken was another concerned parent with elementary school-aged children. Aiken spoke mainly against Saturday school, which was a hot topic around the county on Thursday afternoon.

"I'm a working mom, and the weekend is family time," she said.

Aiken also gave several other reasons, including possible loss of money with low attendance, non-refundable commitments and other planned events as reasons not to have Saturday school.

The board briefly questioned choice number 3, but Superintendent James Neihof urged against it because of current state legislation trying to shorten the school year by two days next year for budgeting reasons.

"With the state already discussing cutting the school year by two days we would be sending a mixed message," he said. "We have actively fought against that, and I would hate to see a conversation in Frankfort using Shelby County as an example of a school that voluntarily cut two days. Any other year, I would back that because we do have the required amount of instruction time without those two days, but not this year."

Choices 4, 5 and 6 were not seriously considered.

Graduation could be moved to Friday, June 11 if Frankfort High School moves its graduation.

Currently, SCHS holds a contract on the Frankfort Civic Center for June 4 and is the first in line for Saturday, June 12, SCHS Principal Eddie Oakley said. Shelby is behind Frankfort for Friday, June 11, and Oakley said that with this plan now set, he could work with Frankfort to see if Shelby County can move into the June 11 spot.