Southwest freshman leading calendar protest

Every student learns the Colonial-era slogan “No taxation without representation” at some point early in their American history studies.

For one Southwest High School freshman, representation — or a lack of it — is at the core of his protest of the proposed calendar for the Minneapolis Public Schools’ 2012–2013 school year. The School Board is set to vote on that calendar tonight, and approval would mean students have a slightly shorter winter break and spend more time in the classroom next year.

What rubbed Nathan Carroll the wrong way, and what sparked his petition drive, was a presentation to the School Board in February that indicated just 1.1 percent of all district parents were surveyed by the calendar committee that drafts the school calendar.

“I don’t think that’s enough to represent everybody,” said Carroll, who also was concerned about what described as a very low level of student input on the process.

Carroll said he opposed a longer school year. Asked why, he responded: “First of all because I like having my time off.

“But, second, they say that it’s to help students improve their test scores — how they do academically — but the studies were unclear,” he continued. “It’s not very clear whether … a longer school year really will help.”

As of early March, a petition circulating in the halls of Southwest had gathered nearly 500 signatures, Carroll said. More than 100 more students expressed their support for Carroll via Facebook.

“On March 13, the night of the meeting and the vote, I’m going to present it to the School Board and ask them to hear our voices, ask them to postpone the vote until we can survey more people,” he said.

To read the PowerPoint presentation that got Carroll fired up, click here to download a copy from the Feb. 14 School Board meeting agenda. The presentation also identifies some of the reasoning behind the calendar committee’s recommendation, including the fact that the district’s 172 instructional days per year are fewer than many area districts and charter schools.

The proposed 2012–2013 includes a pre-Labor Day start for most students, a seven-day winter break and a five-day spring break. The proposed winter break would be three days shorter than in recent years.