Calendar to remain very similar for BC schools

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Despite parents’ dislike, early release days will continue in next school calendar

By Alex Wimsatt

             SHEPHERDSVILLE - Despite the controversy over early release days and many requests to extend fall break from three to five days, the Bullitt County Public School Board recently voted to approve a 2011-2012 school year calendar that's almost identical to the current calendar.

            If the Kentucky General Assembly makes no changes to the new calendar when the legislature convenes in January, the calendar will include eight early release days, a three day fall break in October, a three day Thanksgiving break in November, a two week Christmas break in December and a week long spring break in April.

            As with the current calendar, students will start the 2011-2012 school year on the second Wednesday in August. The last day of the school year for students will be May 21, 2012.

            BCPS board member Lorraine McLaughlin, who sat on the committee that drafted the new calendar, said many hours were spent creating the 2011-2012 calendar which was approved by board members during their December meeting.

            Last month an online survey was conducted to gauge parents' and educators' perceptions of the current calendar and to gain input on the 2011-2012 calendar.

McLaughlin said committee members carefully considered the results of the survey, which nearly 1,500 people participated in.

            There were 427 comments from respondents who were not generally satisfied with the current school year calendar and most of them were critical of early release days, which the board instituted two years ago to allow teachers time to participate in professional learning activities.

            In total only 30 percent of respondents said they were not generally satisfied with the current school year calendar, however, 59 percent of 1,465 respondents said they did not prefer continuing early release days for students.

            "Early release days create a hardship on working parents to provide childcare, disrupt instructional minutes for children by rearranging the school day or missing blocks altogether and force teachers and staff into, oftentimes, unproductive PLCs and meetings when their time could be better utilized in the classroom or working with their individual team to enhance student learning," one respondent stated.

             Another stated, "Bullitt County continues to have early release days, which can be very difficult of families to work around. As an educator myself, I understand the importance of professional growth and PLCs for the teachers in our school systems, but causing hardship on the families that you service is not the answer."

            While the calendar committee has no power when it comes to maintaining or eliminating early release days, McLaughlin said she and her fellow committee members were disappointed to hear that so many had unfavorable views toward early release days.

            McLaughlin said the majority of the committee members felt early release days were beneficial and she speculated that the negative perception was due to the fact that many people simply don't know what early release days are for.

            "That's a matter for public relations," she said. "We have not done a good job explaining how those days were used, but we're working on it. The more people know the better they will understand how important these days are."

BCPS superintendent Keith Davis said he supported early release days and all of the principals in the district supported them as well.

            "They are critical to the work that teachers are doing to improve instruction and student learning," he said.

            "It provides time for teachers to get necessary work done - especially regarding training on instructional strategies, curriculum alignment and pacing, and analysis of student work."

            Bullitt County Education Association president and North Bullitt High School math teacher Michele Harris, who served on the calendar committee, said early release days were far from a waste of time.

            "I don't think the public understands the work the teachers have to do behind the scenes," she said.

            "There's a lot of collaborating teachers have to do and early release days are really the only time they can get together."

            Besides voicing their disapproval of early release days, many of those who said they were not generally satisfied with the current school year calendar said they would like to see fall break extended to five days.

            The committee had considered extending fall break, but between fulfilling the state regulation and trying to keep the school year between August and May, there simply wasn't enough time.

            "Five days would be great, but folks also don't want to go to school far into June or start the first week in August. Something has to give, because you can't get 177 instructional days in along with all the breaks everyone wants," Davis said.

            Harris said the committee tried to take everyone's comments into consideration, but it was impossible to make everyone happy and there just weren't many options.

            "I think we did the best we could. We tried to take everyone's opinion into account, keeping in mind the amount of days the students have to be in school and trying to put the kids first. We had to think about how it's going to affect them," she said.

"I think we all worked it out well to our satisfaction and I think people will like it. I think it's a really good calendar."

            McLaughlin, Davis and Harris said there was little controversy over drafting the calendar and they were pleased with the final result.

            "The committee came together pretty quick around a calendar that is very workable from the student learning standpoint. The more instruction we are able to get in prior to the required state testing will result in better prepared students who will do better on those assessments, and it will cut down on the perceived wasted time at the end of the school year as students anticipate summer break," Davis said.

            With the new calendar pending approval by the General Assembly, Davis said there was no telling what changes the legislature might make, but he suspected there would not be many.

2011-2012 school year calendar.pdf169.52 KB