Proposed Aug. 2 start of Kingsport schools might move Fun Fest events

Rick Wagner • Nov 20, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — Some Fun Fest events may have limited or no access to Indian Highland Park next year because of the way the 2010 Fun Fest and Kingsport school system calendars fall.

School system leaders are headed toward a 2010-11 school calendar very similar to this year, with an early August start date that will push band camp back a week earlier in a year that Fun Fest is being moved a week later.

Although the Kingsport Board of Education won’t finalize the 2010-11 calendar until its Dec. 3 meeting, the BOE during an almost four-hour work session Thursday night reached a consensus to give serious consideration to two calendar options, both of which would start the school year Monday, Aug. 2, and end school May 16.

That reflected results of an online survey that showed the most support for retaining the early start date, a one-week fall break and a two-week winter break.

Fun Fest officials had asked the school board earlier this year to consider a later school year start because Fun Fest uses school facilities.

To avoid having a Fourth of July parade on a Monday and the Fun Fest parade the Friday of the same week, Fun Fest for 2010 has been moved a week later than normal.

Meanwhile, the school system — trying to get the first 90-day semester over in time for the winter holidays and keep fall break — is poised to continue starting classes in early August.

Kingsport City Schools Community Relations Director Amy Greear, who made the calendar presentation along with Assistant Superintendent Carolyn McPherson, said marching band camp at Indian Highland Park likely would require a volleyball tournament and possibly other Fun Fest events to be rescheduled or moved.

Fun Fest Director Lucy Fleming earlier this year asked the BOE to consider a later school year start, and nothing has been finalized on the festival’s use of the park during the potential overlap, BOE President Susan Lodal said after the meeting.

Greear also pointed out that the first day for football practice with pads, as just announced by the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association, would be Monday, Aug. 2. Delaying the start until Aug. 9 or even later in the week of Aug. 2 would give the football team more pad practice time and potentially allow band camp to be shifted away from Fun Fest.

Lodal said the system did not have the option, suggested by some in the survey, to start school later and end school later because of mandatory Gateway and No Child Left Behind testing, not to mention other state testing for which allowable dates already are set.

The informal online survey of 1,566 — made up of 923 parents, 509 staff, 77 “others” and 57 students — found the most popular option among parents and others — drawing a 36 percent approval — was a full five-day fall break and two-week winter break.

In contrast, 29 percent said to start later with no fall break.

Among staff, the fall break and early start got 53 percent approval compared to 23 percent for a three-day fall break and midweek start, while 44 percent of students wanted the early start and fall break, and 23 percent wanted to start later with no fall break.

Lodal said Option C — an Aug. 9 start with no fall break — should be eliminated because of the survey results, while BOE member Randy Montgomery and Lodal said Option N — which included four half days to replace two full days and allow for professional development time — should be considered along with the extended day option for the 2011-12 calendar.

As for concerns expressed in the survey about aligning fall and spring breaks with neighboring Hawkins and Sullivan counties, Lodal asked Greear and McPherson to check on those systems’ schedules.

Hawkins County’s BOE already has set its calendar, but because it has an extended school day — which allows it to “bank” 13 extra days for use as snow days or professional development — Hawkins is starting Aug. 9, has a fall break, winter break and spring break, and gets out in May.

Sullivan adopted the extended day this year.

The BOE has expressed interest in extending the day but for only 15 minutes to bank about seven days instead of the 30 minutes and 13 banked days allowed by state law.

Having a 15-minute extension would have more of an impact on elementary and middle schools since the high school days already are extended. But that would require action by the General Assembly, something Lodal said the BOE may seek this winter.

The survey found that extending the school day got support of 44 percent of parents and others, compared to opposition from 45 percent with 12 percent unsure.

Among staff, 51 percent opposed it, 29 percent supported it, and 21 percent were unsure. Among students, 73 percent opposed, 20 percent supported, and 7 percent were unsure.

Lodal said the survey probably was not clear the extended day would allow for more built-in snow days and professional development days for faculty.

If no snow days are taken, the school year doesn’t end any earlier and students get extra time in school beyond what is required.

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