SD2 board a step closer to pushing back start of school year

2012-09-17T21:25:00Z 2012-09-18T11:16:11Z SD2 board a step closer to pushing back start of school yearBy ROB ROGERS rrogers@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

School District 2 moved a little closer Monday night to postponing by a week the start of school next August.

The board voted to have its calendar committee work on adjusting the calendars they’ve created for the 2013, 2014 and 2015 school years so that school starts later in August.

The committee has met for the past several months and created calendars for the board to approve at Monday night’s meeting.

But after the intense heat that Billings saw through much of August and after hearing from parents and teachers about classrooms that were too hot for instruction, trustees decided to look at pushing the start date back.

Eleven of the district’s 30 schools, including West High, have no type of cooling system.

At the meeting, the calendar committee recommended that the board approve the 2013 calendar as it was and spend the next year on possibly adjusting the 2014 and 2015 calendars with a late start and garner public input.

But Trustee Connie Wardell wasn’t having it. She wanted to see the adjustments made to push back the start date for next year as well as 2014 and 2015.

A later start helps to avoid that late August heat and would put the end of the school year later in June, when Billings is still in the midst of its spring weather, she said.

Moving the school year further into June can save the district money because neither heaters nor coolers are needed to keep classrooms comfortable.

By starting a week later in August and ending a week later in June, SD2 facilities director Lew Anderson estimated the district could save roughly $8,692 a year. He arrived at the number by averaging the district’s energy consumption for the past four years during the last two weeks of August.

Most of the trustees liked that moving the start of the school year back is both good for students and saves money.

Wardell said with budget deficits regularly in the millions of dollars, the district is unlikely to find one lump sum to make up the difference.

“We’re going to have to do it $8,000 at a time,” she said.

Trustees also talked about enrollment Monday night. Districtwide, SD2 has 335 more students this September than it did in September 2011. The increase is unofficial and will probably drop a bit before the first of October when the district turns its official enrollment count over to the state Office of Public Instruction.

Much of the growth is being seen in the lower grades at the district’s elementary schools, many of which were already overcrowded.

“Some of these big loads ... are terrifying,” Trustee Pam Ellis said.

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