School Board adopts extended school calendar
Morgan County Board of Education unanimously passed the 2003-2004 School Calendar at their monthly meeting last Tuesday. The calendar adds two five-day intercessionsÑone in the fall (October 13-17) and one in the spring (March 15-March 19).
ÒWe are not moving to a year-round calendar,Ó said Stan DeJarnett, Associate Superintendent. ÒWe will not be attending school in June and July.Ó
All other holidays remain the sameÑsuch as Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Labor Day. Spring Break falls later in next yearÕs calendarÑApril 26 through April 30, after state testing period.
DeJarnett later explained, ÒThe community has spoken clearly they would not want children attending school in July. The Morgan County school system is not moving slowly to year round school.Ó
The first day of school will be Tuesday, August 5, compared to the 2002-2003 calendar, when students started Thursday, August 8. The last day of school will be Friday, May 28Ñthe Friday before Memorial Day, the same time school ended last May. Christmas break will also be the same amount of timeÑDecember 22 through January 5 (inclusive).
The 10 days of intercession do not count towards the studentÕs required 180 days of school or towards the teacherÕs contracted 190 days, DeJarnett said. The days were not taken from summer holidays, but from a teacher contract day and the timing of holidays such as Christmas. Neither teachers nor students will be required to attend, and teachers will be paid if they choose to work during the intercessions.
DeJarnett said that a grant has been awarded to Morgan County to pay for the two weeks of intercessionsÑmade up of state, federal and private monies. Transportation will continue to run as normal the two intercession weeks.
DeJarnett explained that the 10 days will be used for a variety of activities, including field trips, festivals, sp
ecial events and fine arts classes such as music, art and drama. Students who are falling behind in their academics can use the weeks to catch up, and because High School Graduation Testing follows the week after the spring intercession, students can use the spring intercession to prepare for the tests.
ÒThe weeks are also for kids who donÕt need help catching up,Ó DeJarnett said. ÒItÕs going to be exciting, different. Students are going to want to attend this.Ó He also said that the weeks could possibly used for out-of-state field trips and trips that are impossible to take during regular school time.
The calendar reflects the input of over 70 members of the Morgan County Calendar Task Force, made up of members of all four school councils, parent groups, community agencies and organizations, DeJarnett said. The Task Force spent five months reviewing and researching the calendar. After this version of the calendar was created, DeJarnett said that it was reviewed by leaders of area churches, childcare providers, the Morgan County Athletic Department, Morgan County Recreation Department and the Madison-Morgan Chamber of Commerce.
ÒWeÕll make the extra time worthwhile for all our kids,Ó DeJarnett said. ÒBy the end of this school year, parents will have a comfort level (regarding the calendar). What we seek is cooperation from the parents.Ó
A group of concerned citizens have formed Morgan County SOS (Save Our Summer) in opposition to the new calendar. They will host a meeting Thursday, January 23 at 7 p.m. at the Morgan County Library.
ÒWe are opposed to the calendar because it lessens our summers,Ó Dianne Yost said. ÒThat is precious time with our children for unstructured learning.Ó
According to a press release, the group is also concerned by the fact that the calendar was adopted without adequately notifying the public that the vote was taking place.
ÒI feel like it needed to be brought to the publicÕs attention before it was v
oted on,Ó Patricia DuBose said.
Catherine Andrews agreed. ÒThis is not just an academic decision. Shortening our summer and extending the school year through intercessions impacts every member of our communityÑemotionally, physically and spiritually. An action of this nature should not have taken place without adequate public awareness. There should have been a highly visible campaign to inform the public of the school boardÕs plans and to gather feedback before any vote was passed.Ó