Calendar sure to disappoint, schools say Proposal includes August beginning, late finish

No spring break planned

Elections, training for teachers make schedule difficult

December 19, 1997|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

The proposed school calendar for the 1998-1999 school year is bound to please no one, school officials say.

Students will begin classes in August but will still have to go to school through June 17, thanks to a late Labor Day, two election days, an added parent-teacher conference day and teacher training days that are scheduled throughout the year instead of packed in the week before school starts.

"I just don't think anybody's going to be happy with the calendar," said school board member Ann Ballard. "I think it's going to be one of those years when people are disappointed. They're used to getting out early. They've booked their [vacation] condos."

Ballard has already received calls from parents who want to complain or suggest changes before the board votes on a calendar in February.

One mother suggested starting school the second or third week in August so that students could get out by the first week in June. Ballard thinks that would be even less popular than the current proposal.

One reason schools began opening before Labor Day a few years ago was so that they could dismiss students by the first week in June.

Ballard has also gotten a call from a 4-H mother who thinks that the schools should go back to a post-Labor Day start this year, so that students who are active in the state 4-H fair don't have to choose between school and the fair.

"I told her we'd be going to school almost till the Fourth of July if we did that," Ballard said. "We have to have 180 days of school."

Why will school run so late in June? Three reasons, primarily, with two of them out of the school board's hands.

First, two voting days will occur in the next school year -- a primary Sept. 15 and the general election Nov. 3. Schools close on Election Day while the buildings are used for polling places.

Second, Labor Day will be as late as is possible -- Sept. 7. Because classes traditionally begin the Monday before Labor Day, that means the first day will be Aug. 31 -- about a week later than in this school year, when Labor Day was Sept. 1 -- as early as is possible.

The third reason for a late finish is that in this school year, teachers had several of their "in-service" days before school started. During in-service days, students stay home so that teachers can attend meetings, get trainings or perform professional duties.

But teachers said that they found it hard to do anything on in-service days but prepare for the beginning of school and that they would rather have in-service days spaced throughout the school year.

"Teachers indicated, when we met with them, that it was not as jTC beneficial," Superintendent Brian Lockard said. "When you do in-service at the beginning of the calendar, everyone's mind is on getting ready for school to start, getting ready for the kids."

Ballard said she thinks there might still be some way to fine-tune the calendar. For one thing, September has several interruptions and days off. One is a professional day, and Ballard said she would like to see at least that moved to before school starts.

But in the end, Ballard said, it looks as if parents and students can expect to school to last through the second week in June, and seniors will graduate the weekend of June 17-20.

And this is with no spring break -- except for Good Friday. The only way students would get a spring break would be if mild weather would mean that not all five snow days built into the calendar were used.

One thing Lockard promised is that the school year would not be lengthened to make up snow days, if makeup is needed.

If the weather is so bad that students miss more than five days, the school day will be extended in the spring until the hours are made up.

Ballard got a concerned call about lengthened days, too, from a New Windsor Middle School mother whose daughter has to catch a bus by 7 a.m.

Pub Date: 12/19/97

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