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Survey says: Don't take days from Manatee school district winter break to end classes before Memorial Day

BRADENTON -- An overwhelming majority of those surveyed by the Manatee County School District do not want to shorten the winter break so students and teachers could be done with the academic year before Memorial Day.

Almost 75 percent of employees, parents and community members surveyed about the potential change were not in favor of the proposal, according to updates provided Wednesday by Paul Hockenbury, the district's director of leadership development.

"In both cases, over 70 percent did not support reducing the winter break in order to end the school year

before Memorial Day," Hockenbury said.

The survey was in response to a suggestion made by board member Dave Miner, who questioned how much learning happens at the end of the school year after the Memorial Day holiday.

"The idea was how do we get them the best use of school time," Miner said. "I don't think there was any opposing thought that coming back after Memorial Day was not going to be academically well-used."

Miner questioned the survey used, saying it didn't prompt people to think about the academic benefit.

The board is slated to vote on the 2016-17 and 2017-18 calendars at the Nov. 10 meeting.

Although the calendar is still in draft form, it's likely the next two school years will begin Aug. 10, taking advantage of a new state law that rolled back how early districts could start school for students.

Starting school earlier in August allows the first semester to be completed before the winter break begins. As it stands, students finish the majority of the first semester before the break, but have their first-semester exams after the break.

Surrounding counties are also looking at making the change, Hockenbury said, providing draft examples from Sarasota, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. Sarasota County is proposing starting Aug. 15, but the rest of the counties are also proposing an Aug. 10 start.

Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.