Calendar being developed
By Kathryn Schiliro
About 20 people representing school system teachers, admininstrators, parents of students, and local business leaders gathered Thursday at the Board of Education office to begin work on the system's 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school calendars.
The calendar task force is to create the calendar for 180 student days for each of the two years, even though the current school year is 178 days as the school board cut two student days – the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving – for budgetary reasons. Assistant Superintendent Sarah Burbach, who led the meeting, told the group they were not to take into consideration the budget or teacher days, i.e. pre- and post-planning, as those were school board-level decisions.
The two days before Thanksgiving were chosen by the school board because, historically, a significant amount of students have been absent the week of Thanksgiving. Last school year, 12.6 percent of the system's student population was out the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving.
"That's important for teachers too because they kind of have to teach everything twice," Burbach said.
Currently it's a given that the system takes Labor, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Martin Luther King, Jr., and President's days off, with extended time off for Thanksgiving break – a week – and Christmas break, or winter holidays – about two weeks. This school year, and this isn't given, there was a week-long fall break in October and there will be a week-long spring holiday in March and a long weekend April 26-29.
There are stipulations that the group must abide by – each semester must be 90 days long – but there are even more recommendations that the task force is to consider in order to "develop a system calendar using the best available and pertinent data that makes student achievement a priority," the stated purpose of the task force.
It's recommended that the school year start mid-week as a way of "jumpstarting" the year. The younger students, especially, are less overwhelmed if they're given a few days to learn the schedule, rules, generally how school and the classroom works before beginning full-time instruction, one teacher said.
It's also recommended that the last day of the first semester be prior to winter holidays – so students don't have to come back after time off and take exams – and to end the school year on a Friday, not only for graduation reasons, but also because of a little-known statewide rule that says some snow days may not have to be made up if the year ends on a Friday, should any of those days have been taken, Burbach said. Additionally, it's recommended that breaks occur as close to the 45-day midterm as possible.
Other things the task force is to take into consideration: the full-time equivalent (FTE) count days – on which the state bases their funding formula, which affects teacher salaries, maintenance and operations, and transportation financials – are the first Tuesday in October and first Thursday in March; that home football games are scheduled for Oct. 4 and 18 – the 18th could potentially be Homecoming – and the team benefits from community support that might not be present if fall break, is kept, fell at this time, not to mention the income effects from home football games; and the dates of standardized assessments, although most are offered at a window of time.
"I'm proud of how the team has worked to put students' instruction and achievement first," Burbach later said.
System administration plans school calendars two years at a time. In 2010, when the financial situation was different, Burbach said, the calendar task force considered year-round school, and one of the major complaints was putting students on buses in the heat of August.
It seems the group came to some consensus on several items, and a draft calendar based on this initial calendar task force meeting was presented to the Board of Education at their meeting Monday.
The calendar task force meets again Jan. 17, at which time the small groups will share their decisions and a final consensus calendar will be created. This final calendar will be presented to the school board for final approval at their February meeting.
Printed in the January 17, 2013 edition.