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Parents gripe over changes to Chicago Public Schools calendar

Ben SharWalsh with their children from left Margot 8 Lucy 10 Sally 10 AnnMarie 7 Rosie 7 their home Chicago

Ben and Sharon Walsh with their children, from left, Margot, 8, Lucy, 10, Sally, 10, Anna Marie, 7, and Rosie, 7, at their home in Chicago, Ill., on Friday, September 28, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 30, 2012 6:13AM

Phones at Chicago Public School headquarters were ringing off the hook Friday after parents learned of a new student calendar that makes up for the seven-day teachers strike — but unexpectedly moves spring break up a week.

Many parents complained their vacation plans were turned upside down by the decision to move spring break from the week of April 1 to the week of March 25th.

Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard sent home a letter with students Friday, outlining the strike makeup days but also explaining briefly that, after a seven-day interruption, Spring Break was being changed “to ensure sufficient instructional time before the end of the third quarter.”

Even so, many parents found the news difficult to swallow.

Blaine Elementary parent Sharon Walsh said her “jaw dropped” when she read Brizard’s letter. Her family of seven has already put money down on vacation accommodations for 13 in Mexico for the old break week.

Walsh said she planned the rare spring vacation with her sister’s family and their parents back in August, after realizing that her children’s Spring Break finally coincided with that of her sister, a teacher in Missolu, Mt.

“Completely changing spring break is huge,” said Walsh.

“Families have known for months when spring break is. If you have a big family, you make arrangements in advance so you don’t have to pay for last-minute things. Why did they change it?”

Blogs and websites crackled with complaints about the new calendar Friday.

“It makes no sense to change Spring Break week and completely disrupt existing vacation plans,” one CPS father wrote on the Facebook page of the parent group Raise Your Hand.

“Changing Spring Break did NOTHING to add days. I encourage any parents to call the [Chief Executive Officer’s] office.”

Other calendar changes also sparked outrage.

At some schools, parents questioned why CPS kept Lincoln’s birthday as a day off for students on Feb. 14 but took away the more widely celebrated Presidents Day on Feb. 18, which working parents are more likely to have off.

At, one parent called the decision to push back the last day of school to the last Monday in June “ludicrous.” Wrote the parent: “We’ll be headed out camping that weekend and don’t plan to stick around for a wasted last full day of school.”

Also drawing heat, said Raise Your Hand founder Wendy Katten, was CPS’ decision to add six half-days of attendance for students. Many working parents will have to find day care those half-days, she said.

“Those are a waste of time and don’t help working parents,” Katten said. “I don’t know who comes up with this stuff without consulting the people who actually have their kids in these schools . . .

“People are mad that, once again, there was no parent input.”

CPS spokeswoman Marielle Sainvilus said Friday the district was “getting a lot of comments” about the new calendar — and some were from supportive parents.

Teachers and CPS officials have agreed to go to one unified calendar next school year, but have yet to work out the details.

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