Livingston — Students at Livingston Parish’s public schools could begin classes next school year in the first week of August.
During Thursday’s School Board meeting, officials were presented with a proposed schedule for the 2016-17 school year. It begins Aug. 4 and ends May 23 but includes substantial vacation time — nearly three weeks for Christmas, six school days for spring break, a full week at Thanksgiving and two days for Mardi Gras, plus holidays and a fair day in October. Generally, the calendar resembles the one for the current school year: Students this school year started classes on Aug. 7.
Educators and parents around the state and country have butted heads over school schedules. In nearby Tangipahoa Parish, some have complained that early August start dates can expose students to dangerous heat during physical activities or afternoon bus rides.
Livingston officials prepared for weather-related concerns, researching average temperatures for dates throughout August. Over the past five years, the average Aug. 4 high was 94.8 degrees, Assistant Superintendent Rick Wentzel said in an interview. The average high on Aug. 11 was 92 degrees, and the average high a week later was 91 degrees, he said.
Wentzel said school officials considered later dates but decided to recommend the current proposal to accommodate testing schedules and to make sure the first semester ends before the winter break. Starting after Labor Day would push first-semester exams back to January, and making students take their tests after the holidays causes grades to plummet, the assistant superintendent said.
School Board members will discuss and vote on the proposal at the Feb. 18 meeting. The only discussion Thursday came from board member Sid Kinchen, who asked if there were any built-in days in case schools must close, such as for a hurricane. Wentzel said they had two or three days to work with.
In other business, the School Board, minus absent members Jim Richardson and Buddy Mincey, agreed to buy additional land for the new Northshore Technical and Community College in Walker. The School Board previously had donated 12.3 acres near the Literacy and Technology Center for the campus.
Thursday’s purchase, expected to cost about $50,000, will pay for about a half-acre of undeveloped land on Burgess Avenue so a new entrance can be built onto the property from that road. The school system and other local entities have offered financial support for the project because state funding is contingent on local matching funds. Last week, authorities said they hoped to begin construction this year.
School leaders have been keen to provide most of the funding to support the construction of a campus. As Superintendent John Watson pointed out, Livingston’s high schools have about 450 students dual-enrolled with Northshore, though there is not a physical college campus within the parish.
An entrance for the college on Burgess will help separate traffic from the Literacy and Technology Center on U.S. 190. Watson expects the campuses will be connected and said having two exits would help in case of emergency.
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