By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item
SELINSGROVE — To help Selinsgrove Area School District students get a leg up on mandatory tests, the 2013-14 school year will start a week earlier than usual.
It’s a move that mirrors steps taken in neighboring districts where test scores have improved, Superintendent Chad Cohrs said.
The school board approved next year’s calendar with classes beginning Aug. 20 and ending June 3 at Cohrs’ recommendation.
“The more instruction we can get in before the tests, the better,” he said.
School board member Juliann Brown cast the sole vote against the earlier start date.
Cohrs concedes there’s no data confirming students who start school earlier in the year perform better on Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests, but said the Lewisburg Area School District moved up the opening of school by a week a few years ago and student scores have improved.
Other Valley school districts that already start nearly two weeks before Labor Day include Mifflinburg, Midd-West and Shikellemy.
Cohrs said the additional week will benefit students who by 2017 will be required to pass Keystone exams, which will be given for the first time to 11th-graders at Selinsgrove in January.
Fall coaches expressed concern that the new start date will cut into the two practices a day that athletes now attend during August, a point Cohrs said was discussed.
“While sports are valuable, our focus is truly about education,” he said.
Though classes will start earlier in the summer, the end of the school year will not change. Cohrs said students still will receive the required 180 days of instruction, but will have more breaks during the school year.
“In my ideal world, I’d like to see all-year-round school,” he said, allowing for the 180 days of yearly instruction but without the lengthy summer break during which some students falter. “If it’s better for kids educationally, we should do it.”