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Pearland ISD OKs mid-year calendar change

November 20, 2016 GMT

The date for the last day of classes for the school year and for seniors’ graduation ceremonies has been changed to May 26 in Pearland ISD after trustees recently voted to approve a new district calendar.

Trustees meeting on Nov. 14 also approved extending the class day by five minutes beginning Jan. 3 to meet rules set in place last year by the Texas Education Agency that changed the required length of the school year from 180 days to 75,600 minutes.

Beginning Jan. 3, the school hours in Pearland ISD will be as follows:

Elementary: 8 a.m. to 3:10 p.m.

Middle school/junior high: 8:35 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.

High school: 7:15 a.m. to 2:25 p.m.

PACE Center: 8:35 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.

Trustees also voted to change the 2017 graduation date from June 2 to May 26.

Some trustees weren’t happy that the calendar was being changed in the middle of the year, especially since some families had made plans around a June 2 graduation day.

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“We’ve already publicly advertised when graduation is,” trustee Pam Boegler said. “We have 1,600 seniors and their families are planning a particular date for graduation.

“This is a big moment for these kids and if we move the date, than there could be families who will miss their own child’s graduation because of things that are out of their control because we already had a calendar in place,” she said. “We never gave them any options.

“I don’t think we have any choice. We’re going to have to change the date,” Boegler said. “But, I’m not 100 percent happy about the way it all worked out.”

Superintendent John Kelly said, “I will say I think we did a poor job communicating.”

The school board approved the original district calendar in March. Several trustees then favored having the school year end before the Memorial Day weekend, but Kelly said at the time that the idea presented “too many hoops to jump through.”

Kelly then told trustees he would continue to work with the TEA to create a new calendar in which the school year would end before Memorial Day and bring that proposal back to the board.

In the recent meeting, Kelly told trustees that while working through the process of planning a new calendar, he was making arrangements to rent NRG Stadium for graduation ceremonies. He said he had to choose between two dates - June 2 and May 26.

“I chose May 26 because things appeared to be going in the right direction,” he said. He signed the rental agreement without informing the board.

“I’ve sort of forced you into a box when I made the decision between May 26 and June 2 on renting NRG Stadium. I do not have a second choice for all those kids, and it would be very difficult to get on at this point,” Kelly said.

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The proposal was met with harsh criticism from trustee Sean Murphy, who pointed out that the superintendent ignored the calendar approved by trustees when he set the May 26 NRG contract, knowing it would likely be impossible to find another venue.

“I feel like as trustee that the decision to change the calendar has been taken away,” Murphy said.

“Right now, we have no (other) option. For those people who have made plans and have taken time off and have done whatever they need to do for that set date of June 2, we affect those people who may not be able to attend their child’s graduation,” he said. “We as a board really don’t have a choice. That day is set. We can’t do at it at the University of Houston. We can’t do it at (Pearland ISD’s outdoor stadium) The Rig. So, I’m forced into approving the date for graduation simply because we have no other options.”

Kelly countered that relatively few families would be adversely affected by the graduation-date change.

“I’ll agree with some of what you said, but I’ll also say this: There are 21,600 students in our district, not just the senior class. And, the vast, vast majority benefit from the early end of school,” Kelly said. “Yes, it’s true that there are some who have made plans in September that they have to alter for May or June. But, I think that is a fairly small number.”

The board gave unanimous approval to the new calendar and graduation date. Trustee Rusty DeBorde was absent from the meeting.

“I’m voting for this because we have no other option,” Murphy said. “There’s no alternative to graduate anywhere else on June 2 and satisfy those people who had that on their calendar. But, I think going forward, we need to make sure as a board that we have a concrete direction in place that if we approve this calendar we’re not going to change it mid-year.”

Attempts to reach Kelly by presstime were unsuccessful.