Board Members Express Concerns About Extra Turkey Day Holiday
The Webster Groves School District's Board of Education has requested additional information before considering whether to make the day before Thanksgiving a holiday.
The Webster Groves School District's Board of Education has requested more information before considering whether to make the Wednesday before Thanksgiving a day off for students and staff.
The district's calendar committee recommended the change for the 2013-2014 school year at a board work session Monday. The committee made its decision based on a recent survey it conducted on the subject and previous board discussion.
See previous story: Webster School Board to Consider Canceling Class Thanksgiving Wednesday
According to the survey, 52 percent of parents don't want the day to be declared a holiday, and 52 percent were in favor of it. Meanwhile, 84 percent of teachers and staff voted in favor of having the day off.
Board Member David Addison expressed concern that the calendar committee consists of one board member and all teachers. He also questioned the way the survey was worded.
"There are no parents on that committee, and the most important information is what the parents are thinking," he said. "Plus, the way the survey questions were worded, "Would you like the day off..." I wish the questions were presented to us before it was sent out."
Board Member Steve Loher said he was concerned that if that Wednesday was a day off, the attendance problem would move to Monday and Tuesday. According to Linda Holliday, the calendar committee chairwoman, 10 percent of students take the day off.
"Students may miss Monday and Tuesday if they have Wednesday off," he said. "There are certain things you have to schedule around your child's education."
Board Member Amy Clendennen said, "I'm with Steve on this one. We need to send a message that instruction time is important."
Parents and alumni also expressed concerns about giving students the day off.
Shawn Greene, a Webster Groves High School alumnus and parent of a student currently enrolled in the district, said he was opposed to the idea.
"We have a unique tradition, and we have the biggest Thanksgiving tradition in the country," he said. "Who needs more than 24 hours to travel to get to a Thanksgiving dinner that happens in the evening?"
Charles Schneider, another alumnus, agreed with Loher and said, "You'll tempt parents and students to take off Monday and Tuesday if you give them off Wednesday."
Board Member Mike Kearney suggested the board approve the day off for the 2013-2014 school year and reconsider it for the following year.
"We could try it, and see if it enhances attendance," he said. "We're only voting for one year. We can always change it back."
Addison said, "If we do that, and it doesn't work out, they (the staff and students) will look at it as we're taking something away from them."
Prior to making a decision on the issue, board members requested a breakdown of the survey results and all comments from the survey. They also asked for a comparison of attendance records regarding the Wednesday before Thanksgiving from the Kirkwood School District, which is off that day.
Update: During Monday's presentation to the board, Holliday stated that 52 percent of parents were against having the day off ,and 50 percent were in favor of it. Upon closer examination, the vote was actually equal with 52 percent against and 52 percent for having the day off.
Regarding breakdown of the percentage of parents who voted in the survey, Holliday said the results would not equal 100 percent. The way the survey was set up, one person could vote as separate respondents and choose multiple answers, she explained. For example, a staff member who lives in the district could vote as a staff member and a community member.
Cathy Vespereny, a district spokesperson further explained that the survey did not ask for black-and-white answers. For example, a respondent could select multiple answers such as "I support a half day" and "I support the day off," which would account for one vote against having the day off and another vote in favor.