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YOUNGSTOWN DIOCESE Schools, gripes start early



Published: Mon, August 20, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Most Mahoning County public school districts start school after Labor Day.

By RON COLE

VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Ten-year-old Marty Steele kneeled next to an old oak tree in Mill Creek Park, poking a ladybug with a crooked twig.

His mother, Mary, sat at a nearby picnic table, finishing a leftover peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

The mother-son picnics have become a weekly summertime tradition for the Steeles, who live in Boardman.

"But every year, the summer seems to get shorter," Mary said.

Marty, a Catholic schools fourth-grader, starts school this week.

"Is it just me, or does it seem like the kids just get out of school, and they're going back already?" Mary said.

First day: School bells begin chiming in the Mahoning and Shenango valleys Tuesday as children in the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown and Jamestown, Pa., schools kick off the new school year.

Over the next three weeks, children in the region's 65 public school districts will pack up their book bags and head off to class.

Ohio requires 178 pupil instructional days, but each school district decides when the school year starts and ends.

Immaculate Conception School on Youngstown's East Side, which adopted a year-round schedule three years ago, opened classes Aug. 13.

Most area schools begin classes next week, but most Mahoning County schools wait until after Labor Day.

The Aug. 21 start for the Catholic schools is the earliest in recent memory, area educators say, and it has created a stir among some parents.

"We've had some complaints," said Wallace Dunne, interim superintendent of the 14,500-pupil diocese schools.

The diocese, with more than 50 schools in six counties, added two days to its school calendar last year and two again this year in an attempt to expand instructional days for pupils and in-service training days for teachers, Dunne said.

The calendar plan, developed under former Superintendent Nicholas Wolsonovich, also calls for two additional days next year. Wolsonovich resigned in July to become superintendent of Chicago Catholic schools.

"This is Nick's calendar, and we're going to honor it this year," Dunne said.

Dunne said most of the complaints about the calendar came from parents in Mahoning County, where most public-school pupils still have two more weeks' vacation before the school year begins.

Fair's effect: Twelve of Mahoning County's 14 school districts open after Labor Day. The reason? The Canfield Fair.

"Rural districts have many people who are involved in the fair in really profound ways," said Jim Hall, South Range superintendent.

Hall said many pupils participate in fair-related 4H activities and many of their parents are in the agriculture business and have exhibits at the fair.

"It is such a pervasive and big, important thing in the lives of many of our families that it would be counterproductive to start before the fair," he said.

South Range starts classes Sept. 5, the Wednesday after Labor Day. The district used to start school the Tuesday after Labor Day, but parents asked for an additional day to recover from the fair activities.

"It's just a matter of adjusting the schedule to meet the preferences of the people who pay the bill," Hall said.

Jamestown: A fair is also the reason why schools in Jamestown are starting so early. The Jamestown Fair is conducted annually the week of Labor Day. So, school opens the two weeks before Labor Day and closes Labor Day week.

"It's been a tradition for probably as long as the fair has gone on, 50 years or more," Superintendent David Shaffer said.

Sharon, Pa., schools' Sept. 10 start is the latest in the region. The late start is because of major renovations at the district's high school.




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