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No more UEA weekend?

Granite survey may provide fodder for convention change

Published: Wednesday, June 16 2004 3:14 p.m. MDT

Parents and school workers wanting a tighter school calendar favor getting rid of breaks for UEA weekend, and several don't want to take time off school for teacher professional development, a Granite District survey found.

The information will be used in setting future calendars in the 69,000-student district — and in teachers union discussions on whether to keep the annual convention as is, Utah Education Association President Pat Rusk said.

"Information from Granite could be one more piece of data to take into account," Rusk said Tuesday. "This just illustrates to me the reason we really are looking at it."

UEA weekend for years had been an early October, Thursday through Friday mainstay. But the 19,000-member teachers union ran into trouble in recent years with scheduling. The Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau no longer holds the specific October time slot because teachers don't boost downtown business. Rusk says the South Towne Exposition Center in Sandy lacks sufficient space.

UEA convention dates have jumped around the past few years, to educators' chagrin. A few years ago, the union changed its November convention after superintendents complained of too many days off that month. Last winter, superintendents and the Utah High School Activities Association asked the UEA to reschedule this year's Oct. 28-29 convention, which conflicts with state football and volleyball tournaments.

The union won't change dates due to lack of options, Rusk said.

But it's looking at whether to alter 2the convention format thereafter.

The UEA wants to start by asking school groups to find the best convention date and lobby the Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau to guarantee it.

"I think that school boards around the state would like that," said Utah School Boards Association President Carol Murphy, a member of the Park City Board of Education. "It's hard to plan around a different date every year."

Yet there also is a push to maximize instruction and minimize disruption — a force that could be at odds with UEA weekend, Murphy said. As such, there's been some talk of having just one day off school for the convention or having a traveling mini-convention.

The intent of Granite's survey is apart from that discussion, said Louie Long, senior director of high school services. Rather, officials hoped the voluntary survey of parents, teachers and school workers would inform future calendars.

The survey asked which people liked best: the current practice of starting in late August and getting out the first week of June; starting school after Labor Day and ending mid-June; starting in early August and ending by Memorial Day; or cutting recesses, including eliminating UEA weekend, to start and end between Labor Day and Memorial Day.

Nearly 3,600, or 54 percent of those surveyed (and a majority in all groups), preferred the status quo. The Labor Day-to-Memorial Day option was next, favored by 20 percent of respondents. Of them, 72 percent would rather cut UEA weekend than spring or winter break.

Granite also tested waters on scheduling three professional development days outside the school year instead of taking time off school for them. Eighty-three percent of 1,333 respondents said they would support the concept; teachers favored it more than 2-1.

Long plans to seek more information in the fall. Calendars, if a committee so chooses, conceivably could wipe out those breaks, which total one week, making it so school starts after Labor Day and still gets out in early June.

"I guess it will come down to what comes out of the mini-survey in the fall," Long said.


E-mail: jtcook@desnews.com

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