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Early release will be history in next calendar

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By Thomas Barr

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - Some didn’t understand the usefulness of the early release days for students each school year.

For more educators, the unusual scheduling one day a month served a very valuable purpose.

Now, with the passage of the 2014-15 school calendar, all parties may be even more satisfied.

The Bullitt County Public School Board unanimously agreed to adopt the proposed calendar for next year.

Instead of having early release days, the school district will set aside seven planning days for teachers and staff. Students would not be in attendance during those days.

The early release days would be eliminated.

Also, to meet the state’s minimum requirement of 1,062 instructional hours, there will be five minutes added to the end of each day.

The lone concern addressed by board members Darrell Coleman and Roger Hayes was whether classified personnel would lose days of work when school was not in session.

Superintendent Keith Davis said no one would lose any hours.

Those staff members would have training and planning time.

The only real savings, according to Davis, is the fuel costs of not transporting the students during those seven days.

The food services department could lose money due to no breakfast or lunch being served on those seven days but Davis said the losses could be absorbed.

The calendar committee worked on the proposed dates. Members on the calendar committee included: Dolores Ashby, school board; Julie Brock, parent representative; Wendy Huff, classified member; Michele Davis, BCEA president; Tiffany Darnell, BCEA member; Kathy Hardin, BCEA member; Melissa Williams, BCEA member; Becky Sexton, assistant superintendent for support services; and Pat Smith-Darnell, director of pupil personnel. 

Davis said he is pleased with the changes in the calendar.

“When we began early release days, there was an incredible need to create time for teachers to work together as professionals to begin tearing down the walls blocking collaboration and to create time to dig into student performance data, the idea being that if we don’t have information about how well students are actually learning, we will not be able to improve our teaching,” said Davis.

For years, Davis said there has been a battle of devoting time to instruction and time to monitor learning. The early release days gave teachers the afternoons to work together on student learning skills and techniques.

Through a maturing process and the ability of schools to develop solid Professional Learning Communities, Davis said there was the opportunity to look once again at how time is utilized.

Implementing the Professional Growth and Effectiveness System, which is the new evaluation process, there will be a much larger emphasis on increasing rigor and individualization in the classroom.

Realizing that more time was needed for teachers to work together, Davis said the calendar committee started to look at how time could be allocated.

The final result of calendar discussions led to the committee to take the two planning days used at the beginning of the school year and the eight half-day early release days to form as new schedule.

Teachers would have seven full days within the school year to work together.

Davis said the days will be used in part of student data analysis, as well as continuing education in the professional growth system.

“These day will provide time for teachers to work together but there will be guidance from the overall leadership team (district leaders and principals) about many of the activities that will take place on a district-wide basis,” said Davis. “We are a school system, not a system of schools, and our determinate to provide the same quality instruction at every school and every classroom has not diminished.”

While it is good for the education system, Davis said it is also good for the parents and students.

On the eight days, it will create at least a three-day weekend. In October, fall break is set for Oct. 6-10 with the teacher planning day on the following Monday, Oct. 13.

In November, the teacher planning day will be on Nov. 3 and school is out for students on Tuesday, Nov. 4, for elections.

The Christmas break is set for Dec. 20-Jan. 2. However, the teacher planning day is set for Jan. 5 to set up an even longer vacation.

And, in April, spring break will be on April 6-10 with the teacher planning day on the following  Monday, April 13.

The first day of school for students will be Wednesday, Aug. 6. The final day for students is set for Thursday, May 21.

Snow days will be set for May 22, May 26-29, and June 1-4.

Davis said the teacher planning days will be very intense. All staff members will be expected to be present with no use of personal or sick days or appointments.

“We need all hands on deck every time to make these days successful,” said Davis.