Sunday, July 2, 2017

Calendar Changes

Next year, our school district will be undergoing some major calendar changes.  Overall, I think it makes sense, which is a rare move on CCSD's behalf.

The Pros 

1. We will be done before Memorial Day.  In recent years, we've had a three day weekend for the holiday (obviously), then had the students return for a day and a half.  While we made it work, it's a tad silly.  Everything will be finalized, stamped, and sealed before the holiday weekend.

2.  The first semester will actually end at Winter Break.  Again, a wise choice.  In the past, the first semester went in through January, with the idea that students could study over the holiday break (or make up missing work).  In elementary school, this isn't really a big deal.  However, it was quite frustrating for middle and high school teachers (and students).  First semester trickling over into January wasn't the best idea. It also meant teachers got the joys of feeling pressure to grade make up work, essays, etc.  With everything wrapped up nicely before the two weeks off, it makes all involved players just a tad happier.  Plus, it's a fresh start (with fresh courses for some) in the new year.

3. Thanksgiving Break.  To be fair, we enjoyed a week off at Thanksgiving last year too and I'm glad they kept this in our new calendar schedule.  

For 28 weeks of the year, teachers report 64 minutes early on a chosen day.  We voted to keep our Wednesday morning start time at 7:22 (instead of 8:26).  Other schools have this contract time after school, or split it into two periods, but each school got the flexibility to decide when this SBCT (site based collaboration time) would occur.  

We used our time for professional development with Close Reads, Read by 3 materials, behavior interventions, training on students in trauma, planning for APTT (Academic  Parent Teacher Team meetings), and professional book studies.  (Most of these PD opportunities I assisted in planning and executing, so I was rather pleased to find that a vast majority of the time was spent in a useful manner and well received by most of the staff.)   

These extra 64 minutes, 28 times a year, add up to four contracted days for teachers.  Three of them are used to extend Thanksgiving Break to a full week (Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are now off).  The fourth day is either used for Election Day (let's not mess up the next election everyone) or for Easter Monday.  This upcoming year we will be having Easter Monday, which means Spring Break gets an extra day off.  

4.  President's Day Weekend.

I don't know what scheduling gurus snuck this gem into the calendar, but I'll take it!  We have school through Valentine's Day (which is a Wednesday this upcoming year), but have off Thursday and Friday.  That's in addition to Monday being off for President's Day.

So basically we'll provide copious amounts of sugar in the form of red and pink frosting, then send the kiddos to their families for a five day weekend.  Sounds good to me!

The Cons 

1. School starts earlier.  Students start Monday, August 14th.  Teachers have a mandatory reporting date of the 9th, but schools open on the 1st.  I plan to go back in the 3rd because with a new curriculum to learn and a room to set up, I'll need extra time.  The decision to go back early is more fully explained {here}.  

Temperatures are still uncomfortably warm and some schools may not have adequate air conditioning.  Or the AC won't make it through the day.  Or we'll have heat advisories on the black top and host indoor recess.  None of these situations are exceptionally fun for students or teachers.

2. We have off Friday, October 27th for Nevada Day.  But Halloween falling on a Tuesday practically guarantees a partial week of the following scenarios:

a) Students who have consumed way too much candy and are experiencing sugar crashes.

b) Students who are extremely tired from staying out too late on a school night and try to fall asleep in class.

c) Students who sneak candy into class.  While this is a tad irritating, it's also potentially dangerous for students with peanut allergies.

3. We've got a short summer.  Last year, we started August 29th and enjoyed a 12 week summer.  School ended June 8th.  We go back in the middle of August this upcoming year, leaving a 9 week summer.  That's a little rough.

Additional Changes

 I don't know if it's for all of CCSD or just my school site, but we've moved parent-teacher conferences from December to October.  The rationale behind this move is that in October, there's still time for students to catch up during the first semester.  Interventions can occur.  There is some teacher squawking about this being "too early", but honestly, it's seven weeks into the school year.  By seven weeks in, all initial benchmarks should be completed (for students who start on the first day) and teachers should have a pretty good grasp of what students are struggling with.   

December conferences were a little trickier.  By four months in, the honeymoon period is over and teachers are blessed with seeing the full range of these lively personalities.  We know our students pretty well.

Parents and families struggled to get time off, meaning I was super flexible with time and stayed long past my contract time.  My rationale was that if parents had the opportunity to take time off from work, they should spend it with their families during the holidays...not sitting in my classroom for a thirty minute meeting.  I am also fully aware this cut into my own family time, but I have an incredibly supportive husband who made dinner each night I worked late. Granted, smaller class sizes in third grade will mean I'll have a dozen less conferences to hold.  Plus, by December, for the most part, first semester grades are set.  There's not a lot of magical work that can be done in two weeks to make up for the first four months of the school year. 

While I'm not thrilled I have about a month of summer break left, I am excited about the upcoming school year. 

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