2011-02-02 / News

Proposed school calendar frees up students’ afternoons

By Donna C. Gregory

Dalton Dalton The proposed 2011-12 school calendar has a tradeoff for students: They’ll get out of classes early on seven days during the year, but they’ll have to arrive earlier and stay later on regular school days.

Donna Dalton, chief academic officer, presented the “new concept” for the calendar to school board members last week. Essentially students would get out of school three hours early on the last Wednesday of each month during the school year (except May and December) to allow time for teachers to do professional development. Regular school days would be extended by 10 minutes – 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the afternoon – to make up for the loss of instructional time.

The school system is currently accepting feedback on the proposal. Some parents may not like the change because it will require them to make changes to their childcare and transportation arrangements.

Trammell Trammell “It would in some cases be an inconvenience to some families if a child is released early, but I feel that by giving advanced notice, it shows that we are planning effectively for parents and teachers,” said Omarh Rajah, Matoaca District school board member.

School board members, in general, seemed to be supportive of the idea.

“Our task is to communicate to our parents the positive aspects of this. Hopefully this will benefit our students and help our teachers as well. We can’t expect our teachers to have staff development and then not provide them with the time to do it,” said Marshall Trammell, Bermuda District school board member.

Frank Cardella, president of the Chesterfield Education Association, said he’s received calls from teachers regarding the change, but no one is offering an opinion just yet. In the past, a few teachers have contacted this newspaper to say the school system wastes time and money by bringing in speakers for professional development workshops.

When asked about placing further demands on teachers’ time, Cardella said, “It really depends on how it plays out. I’ve heard the intent is that central office will not be adding any division-based professional development. This will be school-based, which means teachers won’t have to sit though workshops.”

Asked about the possible inconvenience to parents, Cardella said the CEA does not have an official position on that, but he did share his personal opinion as a parent: “I don’t view the school system’s role as providing childcare. As long as they provide my children with the best education, whatever the inconvenience or cost that gets passed onto me, I’m fine with that.”

The proposal does create more time off for students in some months than others. In November, for example, students are already off on Nov. 7 for a parent/teacher conference day, Nov. 8 for a teacher workday, Nov. 23 for a furlough day and Nov. 24-25 for the Thanksgiving holiday. As proposed, a three-hour early release day would be added on Nov. 30.

(There are two furlough days in the 2011-12 calendar to help offset a budgetary shortfall.)

In January 2012, students would be out of school for Martin Luther King Day on Jan. 16 and a teacher workday on Jan. 30. The three-hour early release day would be on Jan. 25.

Superintendent Marcus Newsome said it’s not uncommon for school systems to schedule professional development into their calendars. The school divisions in Newport News and Fairfax County do.

“We are probably further behind in this type of planning because many other school districts have this built in, and the community has applauded it,” said Rajah.

To view the proposed school calendar and offer feedback, visit and click on the link under “Hot Topics.”

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