PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The Peoria Public school board is just days away from a possible vote that could change the entire school calendar going forward.
Board members are expected to hear a proposal Monday, April 12, and potentially vote on switching to a balanced or modified calendar or staying traditional.
Some of the district’s parents and their children gathered in front of the administration building Wednesday in a final attempt to project their voices on the matter.
The Peoria Parents Project, an extension of the Peoria People’s Project, organized the “evening of action.” Cars drove by honking in support of parents and children as they held signs urging the school board to vote “no” on a balanced calendar. The children there, in turn, chanted “save our summer.”
“We just want them to pause and delay because surveys they’ve sent out have been very skewed to their direction and they seem set on this balanced calendar and we have a lot of opposition,” Kristen Meierkord, a parent in the district, said.
The balanced calendar is an attempt to address learning loss and would change summer break from 60 days to 30 days, and students would alternate 45 days of learning with 15-day breaks during the school year.
Meierkord said she, along with parents she’s spoken to, agree that it’s too soon to make this decision.
“It’s a year and a half out from now, there’s no reason to do it in the middle of a school year that we’ve had multiple first days of school,” Meierkord said. “This year’s been crazy for everyone, not just parents and students but everyone. There’s no point in rushing something for an April 12th vote in 2021 when this won’t take effect until the 2022-2023 school year.”
She also said there are concerns of losing teachers in the district if the schedule changes.
“We are very fortunate to have the amazing teachers we have, however, a lot of them do live in other districts,” Meierkord said. “If their kids are out of school and they have to work, we’re going to lose them and that has been voiced to me.”
Lynn Fingerhut another parent in the district said they’re hoping at least four board members vote “no” because they believe more time and research needs to go into the proposal before accepting it.
“I feel like this kind of massive decision is being made rather quickly and under some unusual circumstances,” Fingerhut said. “I feel like just in these unprecedented and chaotic times, we’ve got a lot of parents who just aren’t able to pay attention to what’s going on or have time to gather all of the data and look into this.”
Fingerhut also said the questions on surveys given to parents weren’t as detailed as they could have been. She said there has been good work done with the committee’s town halls, but she doesn’t believe sufficient information has been given to families, teachers, and students.
She said there are still potential issues that need to be properly addressed.
“People have all sorts of issues ranging from childcare to custody agreements, to competitive sports, to families that don’t have transportation,” Fingerhut said.”
Doug Shaw, PPS school board president, came out to hear the concerns of those in attendance. He said the feedback he heard Wednesday is from people wanting to stay traditional, possibly open-minded to a modified calendar, and completely opposed to the balanced calendar.
He said he’s willing to keep an open mind before taking a vote.
“This is a huge change and I understand the concern,” Shaw said. “I’ve been open-minded through this whole process and if we can do something that’s going to bring some benefit and we can mitigate the issues that have been raised by families and staff then maybe we can do something. If we can’t then maybe we need to reconsider.”
He said expects the board will have several questions and other options to consider after hearing Monday’s proposal.
“If board members are not ready to make a decision then we can table the decision or we can vote it down,” Shaw said. “We don’t have to move forward on Monday with any of the options.”
Thomas Bruch, the spokesman for Peoria Public Schools, said this is still in the process of being addressed by the district and no final decision or proposal has been made.