School Calendar for 2010-11

Here’s something that comes up every year as a topic of discussion—the school calendar. As you probably know, it always comes down to the question of a two week break in April or a week in February and a week in April (better known as the split break). There are all kinds of arguments that people make in support of or against one or the other.

The most significant argument of late surrounds the concern over our grades 3-8 state testing which is scheduled for late April through May. Opponents to the two week break are concerned that it’s bad for our kids—two weeks away and then start the NYS testing cycle?

What’s my 2 cents? I hate to think that our students won’t do well on the NYS assessments because they’re away from us for two weeks. The last thing all this state testing should have resulted in was months of test prep, so I like to think that we’re preparing our students to do well throughout the school year, to be good thinkers and readers and writers, and that a week prior to the test of “test taking strategies” should suffice.

I also think the break in February is a needless break in learning. If I had my way, we’d take a week in April and end a week sooner in June but last I checked SED isn’t asking my opinion on the Regents testing schedule. Better yet, let’s go year round in four quarters with two weeks in between each quarter.

The BOE members here elected to keep the two weeks together for next year, but we’re keeping them near the beginning of the month to coincide with the week in April that the “split break” schools take. We need to do that because districts ¬†aren’t independent entities on islands–we send students to other locations and to BOCES for programs and the more we can do the same with our schedules, the better for those Randolph students attending classes at other schools or BOCES.

We haven’t approved the final calendar yet, but we’re close. We also have to start the Friday before Labor Day with students again–whenever it falls a bit later in the month, that happens. It’s either that day for students or the day before Thanksgiving in order to get in all of our student days.

The only other change that I’ll write more about here in the future is in line with our vision of Learning with Passion, Innovation and Leadership. We want to focus more on our teachers as learners too and so are planning for collegial circles or learning clubs next year–where teachers will work in groups over the course of the school year to learn more about topics like project based learning, improving student writing, Thoughtful Classroom strategies, technology integration—topics that they will choose to study that align with our vision—and will allow them to learn and grow as educators.

Research has proven time and again that there is no more significant factor in your child’s success than the teacher in front of him or her in the classroom. Investing in our teachers, in their learning and further developing their expertise, is one of the best investments we can make. ¬†Therefore, we’re planning for one Friday per month when students will be dismissed early so that we can work with our teachers as we focus on learning how to be the best educators we can be— as we learn with passion, innovation and leadership.

  1. I am responding to this particular blog post after attending the BOE meeting last evening. I would like to encourage others to attend meeting as well. Yes, you can read the minutes of the meetings. They are posted on the website.
    The minutes, by their very nature are ambiguous, vague and do not paint a detailed picture of the meeting. By attending you can get a whole different picture. You can hear discussion and who is discussing what. These people represent you. They make decisions that affect your children, and they spend your tax dollars.
    There was a lengthy discussion last night about the school calendar. This was generated by the superintendent presenting a new idea with regard to teacher inservice. (the very same discussed in this blog.) There had been a lengthy discussion about the school calendar at the last board meeting as well, generated by a guest speaker from BOCES.
    Why do you suppose the topic of school calendar would generate so much discussion? Is it because there was nothing else to talk about? Was it because it affects so many people and so many children? I have been discussing the school calendar for all of the twenty one years that I spent on the Board. I have discussed it at BOE meetings, at County Association meetings, at BOCES Board meetings. Am I tired of talking about it? You bet! Being tired of talking about it doesn’t change the fact that it still affects many people and it is still the responsibility of Boards of Education. Do I know the answers? No, I do not, but I do know we need to continue to discuss it until we do.
    As responsible parents, taxpayers and voters you need to attend some meetings. Get to know who among your representatives are doing their jobs. Listen to the questions they ask. See how they vote. Know what their positions are.

  2. Thank you for providing background on the school calendar decision process. I agree that a one week spring break with an additional week in the summer would be better. How do we (parents) communicate that desire to SED? I hear so much about how short summer is…

    Further, your notes suggest that the 2011 spring break, like 2010 will not coincide with Easter weekend (Easter is April 24, 2011). I know that this part of the decision is tied at least in part to BOCES schedules. How can we communicate the desire to keep spring break and Easter together?

    As a work-at-home mom I try to plan fun and meaningful activities for my children for both spring break and summer vacation. Family visits out-of-town are part of that. I find that most schools in other parts of the country still have their spring breaks at Easter. Last year I was able to plan a mid-week visit over spring break allowing my son to spend time with a cousin he rarely sees. This year his spring break is at the beginning of the month with Easter; ours is at the end of the month. I’m disappointed that we can’t get together.

    As for a longer summer, there are so many summer opportunities for kids, both elementary-aged and teens, and it just seems like there’s not enough time in the short summer. Camp, missions trips, job experiences, church VBS, family visits, family vacations, sports/athletic leagues or clubs, lessons (athletic, music, etc.)…the kinds of things that don’t fit into a family’s schedule when the kids are in school. Many of these opportunities are life-changing for kids. Some aren’t even accessible to NY students because they start in June. While I don’t fill every week of the summer with planned activities, I find there isn’t a lot of flexibility given the shortness of the summer break. Plus,many schools in other parts of the country start summer break in late May and return to school in mid-late August. If you have family in those parts of the country, the window of opportunity to plan a family visit is extremely narrow.

    There are so many other issues related to this discussion…child care arrangements for working parents, graduate school and continuing ed opportunities for teachers, etc. You’ll definitely never please everyone with any decision that’s made. Thank you for allowing us toparticipate in the discussion.

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