U.S. Air Forces in Europe is asking parents if they’d like to see a dramatic change to their children’s school year.

Parents are being surveyed to cast a “yes” or “no” to a proposal to start classes in the Department of Defense Dependents Schools system in early August instead of late in the month in order to get the first semester in the books by the winter break.

The one-question survey — being delivered by e-mail — asks parents to make their decisions by June 1.

“Once the survey is done, we would take it to DODDS,” said 1st Lt. Scott Nielsen, a USAFE public affairs officer.

The proposal, born out of a USAFE commanders meeting in March, would then be considered by DODDS.

“If they make a proposal, certainly it will be entertained,” said David Ruderman, a DODDS-Europe spokesman. He said he couldn’t comment further on something school officials hadn’t seen.

Nielsen said USAFE was reluctant to talk about the reasoning behind the survey, saying that the command wanted honest opinions from parents, without command influence. One advantage could be that the end of the school year would align better with the start of the annual PCS season, meaning fewer kids would have to be pulled out of school because their servicemember parent received a new assignment.

“USAFE doesn’t want to slant this either way,” he said.

According to the survey, the proposal would allow not only the first semester to start three weeks earlier and finish by winter break, which would also create an earlier end to the school year. The second semester would start sooner, with students being let out for summer break in late May, instead of mid-June.

Such a move would, if considered for the upcoming school year, require a substantial effort by DODDS and might involve changing the dates already set for standardized tests and extracurricular activities. It would also involve renegotiating deals with bus companies and school employees, school officials said.

“It would be extremely expensive for DODDS to do it the first year,” said Mark Fix, a teacher at Aviano High School and the school representative for the Overseas Federation of Teachers, one of the two teachers unions in Europe. Teachers would be working more days in the initial year and would thereby get paid more.

Fix said he could see positives, such as aligning the DODDS calendar with many school districts in the States, and negatives, such as spending three more weeks of August in classrooms that are sometimes air-conditioning challenged.

Both Army and Navy officials reached Wednesday said their commands are not participating in the survey.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.

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