On August 19, students in the Sioux Falls School District loaded up their new backpacks and started their first day of school. That didn't sit well with Rhonda Lockwood.
The mother of five isn't alone. More than 700 supporters have joined the Facebook group, "Parents in Favor of Changing the Sioux Falls School Calendar". With classes in session until May 14, Lockwood argues it's too soon for school to let out for the year.
"The weather is cold, sometimes the heaters are turned on in the schools, the furnaces," Lockwood said. "And then when we start, sometimes the second week of August, it's ridiculously hot out; the kids have a hard time in school focusing, adjusting."
Bob Jensen oversees the district's calendar. He says the early classes coincide with the testing schedule.
"Basically we're starting two weeks early now," Jensen said. "That allows us to have enough days in first semester to have first semester done by the Christmas break or holiday break."
With the current calendar, semester tests are taken before the Christmas break, a major benefit to the students, according to Jensen.
"The semester test scores have increased because of that," Jensen said. "Plus, it gives the students two more weeks of class time prior to what used to be the Dakota STEP, so they have more class time to prepare for that."
In 2009, parents successfully petitioned to push the calendar back one week starting with the 2011 school year. But now, the group would like to see classes line up closer to the Labor Day and Memorial Day holidays. If they can't get further cooperation from the school board, Lockwood says they'll look at gathering petitions for a city vote or asking for legislative support in Pierre for the adoption of a state-wide calendar.
"That doesn't mean we're not open to another negotiation, or discussion with the school board, but we kind of feel like maybe that path has been crossed and tried, and we're not necessarily getting anywhere again," Lockwood said.