Guidelines call for later start to school year

September 26th, 2013

When the 2013-14 academic year began on Tuesday, Sept. 3, the John Carroll University community was granted a few extra days of summer extending into Labor Day weekend. While students settled into their new homes around campus, reunited with friends, met new ones and prepared for the launch of fall semester, questions surfaced regarding the later-than-usual first day of school.

Associate Academic Vice President James Krukones, who maintains the academic calendar, explained the reasons behind the unusual post-Labor Day start to the semester.

“It’s not whimsical,” he said. “There are actually guidelines.”

Established in 1998, these University guidelines were expected to be reviewed this year. They have been set to determine the academic calendar years in advance. The academic calendar can always be found on the JCU website.

The guidelines state, “Fall classes begin the last Monday of August, unless Labor Day comes very early,” as it did this month. Also, two full weeks of class are required after Thanksgiving before final exams can begin. With Thanksgiving falling on Nov. 28, the last Thursday of the month, the late start date accommodated all parameters.

The exception to the common first day for universities and colleges across the country is also the case for next year.

Sophomore Annie McHugh expressed her appreciation.

“Because I’m an out-of-state student, I got to spend more time with my family,” she said. “And starting later, the weather was cooler for living in the dorms without air conditioning.”

Students around campus had opinions to share, most of which were positive. For fall athletes, this meant more time on campus to train and practice before classes began. Drew Mestelske, a junior on the men’s soccer team, mentioned having more time on campus before all students moved in.

“We were able to focus a little more and become closer to everyone on the team,” he said.

While students and faculty may have prized the late start, it is questionable if the end of the semester will be viewed as optimistically. The last day of final exams is Friday, Dec. 20, making it one of the latest finishes in the past several years. Professors must have grades completed and submitted to the University by Dec. 23, leaving a small window of time for grading.

As another effect of the post-Labor Day start, winter break will be shortened to three weeks rather than four. This may influence vacations and other plans for students and faculty alike. Classes for the spring semester are scheduled to start Jan. 13, 2014. When this point was mentioned to students, some showed disappointment and wished for the regular month-long hiatus from class to spend at home, on vacation or on immersion trips or retreats offered by Campus Ministry.

The first day of school brought the buzz back to campus, and it will continue to spark conversation about the adjustments in the academic calendar. Krukones warned with a smile, “stay tuned,” as there may be changes in the calendar in the next few years.