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Peoria Public Schools approves district-wide modified calendar

Peoria Public Schools

Peoria Public Schools will operate under a modified calendar beginning with the 2022-2023 school year.

Under the modified calendar, the school year would begin Aug. 3 rather than Aug. 17, and feature extended breaks in the fall and spring along with a summer break of 42 days, rather than the 54 days allotted in the traditional calendar. In addition, the district will be returning to the two-tiered daily schedule that was in place before the pandemic.

Monday night’s Board of Education meeting saw a lengthy public comment portion where the majority of commenters expressed their disapproval of the modified calendar. Many referenced a recent poll conducted by the Peoria Federation of Teachers that revealed 447 of 663 surveyed union members are against the change. The union published the results of the survey on its Facebook page on Feb. 5.

Union president Jeff Adkins-Dutro did not speak publicly at the meeting, and Superintendent Dr. Sharon Kherat later referenced a conversation in which she claims Adkins-Dutro stated he would “remain quiet” on the matter because union opinion was “50-50.”

Kherat’s response to the public comments was limited, but she remained steadfast in her messaging that the switch to the modified calendar provides much needed rest for students and staff.

“It’s all about mental and physical break,” said Kherat. “We’re not necessarily going after academics for a modified calendar, but we believe over time with the intercession, we will see (improvements).”

The vote to adopt the new calendar was 4-3 with board members Lynne Costic, Mike Murphy, Doug Shaw, and vice president Martha Ross voting in favor, and board members Chase Claus, Anni Reinking, and president Gregory Wilson voting against it.

Harrison Community Learning Center

Multiple staff members and students from Harrison Community Learning Center, a pilot school for the modified calendar, spoke in favor of the district-wide change. Kherat referenced statistics from Harrison to make the case for the new calendar, hoping to satisfy calls for more data supporting the switch.

“We have five kindergarten through eighth-grade buildings, and they’re very similar in terms of demographics. Harrison had the lowest office discipline referrals with 217 referrals for the first semester (this year),” said Kherat. “The next building had 841 referrals.”

Reinking's vote against the motion was based on a lack of data outside that collected from Harrison.

“District 150 is not a one-size-fit-all district,” said Reinking. “I wish we would have thought outside the box with this proposal, we would’ve had more data…to make sure that we do have buy-in from different parts of the district.”

Reinking asserted other strategies could have been implemented to better inform the community of the elements of the change, whether or not there was support.

“I think that we’re unintentionally putting people against each other within the district when we can think outside the box,” she said. “We need to get buy-in.”

District 150 will also be returning to the two-tiered schedule that was being used before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Peoria Public Schools
District 150 will also be returning to the two-tiered schedule that was being used before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After the conclusion of the meeting, a Facebook post was made by the Peoria Federation of Teachers stating that they would be “bargaining the impact” of the change.

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Mike Rundle is a correspondent at WCBU. He joined the station in 2020.