The Bozeman School District is launching a large community task force to investigate whether the school calendar should be changed to improve efficiency and student learning, perhaps by altering the tradition of a three-month summer vacation.
The 40-member task force, which meets for the first time next week, will spend seven months studying current research and looking into whether there are better ways to organize the school week, month or year, Superintendent Kirk Miller said at the end of Monday's School Board meeting.
School Board Chair Denise Hayman said she's interested in exploring possible changes to the traditional summer vacation.
"Consistently through the years, I've heard from parents that summers are too long," Hayman said. "They have concerns children are not as strong when school starts (in the fall) because of the huge break.
"I think it will be exciting to explore all options," Hayman said. "My biggest hope is we'll look at all the options in great detail and come up with options that work in our community."
Miller said the task force includes School Board trustees, parents, teachers, principals, school employee unions, and people from the Bozeman Area Chamber of Commerce, Montana State University, Belgrade and LaMotte schools, Gallatin Field Airport, Zoot Enterprises, Bozeman Deaconess Hospital, downtown Bozeman, the city of Bozeman, the city recreation department, and Bozeman High School's junior and sophomore class presidents.
It's a large group, because any changes could potentially affect every family, organization and business in the community, Miller said.
The task force will be similar, he said, to the large committee that a few years ago came up with the plan to change Bozeman elementary school enrollment. The committee recommended a system of neighborhood schools with geographic boundaries, instead of the old family choice system that resulted in parents camping out overnight to sign up their kids for the schools they preferred.
Miller said the task force will use the consensus process, starting with talking about what people feel would be the best and worst possible outcomes.
Asked if he was interested in a four-day school week, which some districts have adopted to save money, or a year-round schedule that might avoid having to build another multi-million-dollar school, Miller said the question was too targeted. There might be more efficient ways to organize the school week or year, he said.
"We know if we're going to provide the best opportunities to students, we have to analyze everything," Miller said. "There's a lot of research out there on how school calendars can help with school learning. Before we would make any big change, we need to engage the community in dialog."
The task force will meet for the first time Oct. 17 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Willson School board room.
Gail Schontzler can be reached at email@example.com or 582-2633.