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Parents Turn In School Start Date Petitions

May 9, 2014, 4:50 PM by Hailey Higgins

Parents Turn In School Start Date Petitions

Before the 5 p.m. deadline on Friday, concerned parents dropped off petitions with 6,100 signatures to put the school start date on the ballot. This comes after nearly three weeks of heavy campaigning that lasted until the last few hours.

Friday was crunch time for Wendy McDonnel and Theresa Stehly as they gathered last minute signatures at Active Generations.

"We are trying to get the school calendar on the ballot so kids start school closer to Labor Day versus in the middle of August," McDonnel said.

For five years, supporters of a post-Labor Day start date say they've asked for a compromise from the Sioux Falls School District. The petition campaign launched in April after the school board approved the school schedules for the next three years, all starting in August.

"I call (our supporters) foot soldiers," McDonnel said. "They've been out there getting signatures and talking to people so we feel really good about where we're at."

The group had 20 days to come up with nearly 4,700 signatures to put the issue on next spring's ballot.

"As a parent, I really believe that school ends too quickly," Lisa Howard said. "May is still cold and the kids can't even go swimming outside, and then August is always too hot."

"I want it after Labor Day because I never get to be able to take my kids on vacation and it really puts a cramp for grandparents with their kids," Deloris Chapin said. 

While they're pushing the deadline, organizers hope they're able to give parents and grandparents a say when school should start.

The president of the school board says if the issue is brought to a vote, the district will stand by the current schedules. Doug Morrison says the current schedules make sense and give an academic advantage to the students who will take end-of-semester tests before the Christmas break.

Now that the petitions are filed, the school district's business manager will go through them.  First he'll number and date them and make sure everything is complete and notarized.  The district will then do scientific random sampling to make sure enough of the signatures are valid.

If there are enough, the school start date will be on the ballot in the spring of 2015.  That means the vote could have an impact on the 2015-2016 school year.

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