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The Lincoln Board of Education on Tuesday tabled a decision on the school calendar for 2011-12 after hearing from parents who pleaded for school to start later than Aug. 10.

"I was appalled when I read you were considering an Aug. 10 start date," said Carmen Skare, a parent who extolled the virtues of summertime -- from Zesto to weeding the garden to having time to be bored.

"Not all the important lessons are learned in school," she said.

A calendar committee offered a second option, which most board members seemed to prefer. It would start school on Aug. 15 and shorten fall break to one day on Oct. 17.

Board members decided to table the decision because they want to think about it further, give the public time to respond and consider changes in addition to the second option. The board is expected to vote on second option at its June 8 meeting.

The calendar committee of staff members, parents and administrators had recommended pushing up the start date to Aug. 10 in order to end first semester before winter break, something 63 percent of students and staff members surveyed said they wanted.

To do that, the committee also proposed shortening the weeklong fall break by a day.

The second option presented Tuesday would keep the end of first semester before winter break and keep the last day on May 23.

This school year started Aug. 19, and the 2010-11 year will start Aug. 18. It ends June 3 this year and May 27 next year.

Skare said she'd created a survey of her own and got 168 responses. More than 80 percent wanted to shorten fall break and start later, she said.

John Neal, Lincoln Public Schools director of student services, said he'd had gotten nearly 300 e-mails about the proposed calendar from a link district officials set up on their website.

More than 200 talked about the start date, and most of those suggested moving it back and shortening fall break.

Paula Buckner, who was on the committee, said the board used survey data and feedback to develop the calendar. She said teachers use fall break to prepare for the next semester.

The committee got input from 15 different groups before making a final recommendation, and it considered every option, said Jenni Absalon, a committee member and president of the Lincoln Education Association.

"Everything you've brought up tonight we've discussed with other people," she said.

The early start would mean less time for athletic teams to practice before schools starts and would mean band camps likely would start in late July or early August.

But creating a calendar with semesters that aren't even creates even more scheduling problems, Absalon said.

Lisa McNeel, a parent who runs a detasseling company, said starting school as early as Aug. 10 would hurt students who depend on detasseling for income. The detasseling season fluctuates but usually starts around July 10 and can run past Aug. 10, she said.

Starting too early also would hurt the economy, because those students -- and some teachers who supervise detasseling groups to supplement their incomes -- spend that money in Lincoln, she said.

McNeel said eight detasseling companies operate out of Lincoln and employ about 2,000 students.

The board decided not to consider the Aug. 10 start date, but instead focus on the alternative: the Aug. 15 start date and fall break that turns into a three-day weekend.

But it had other concerns, such as winter break, which several board members said they thought was too long and could create day care problems. It would run from Dec. 23 to Jan. 6.

Although some board members echoed parents' desire for more summer, the proposed calendar actually keeps summer the same length, something board member Kevin Keller pointed out.

"So you'd be shifting summer, not shortening it," he said.

Reach Margaret Reist at 473-7226 or mreist@journalstar.com.

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