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School system looks for calendar input

COVINGTON - The Newton County School System wants to hear from educational stakeholders about a new school calendar.

The school system is considering a change to its current school calendar schedule, effective for the 2009-10 school year.

For the past several years, the school system calendar typically scheduled teachers to begin the school year in late July in preparation for the upcoming school year and students generally begin around the first week in August. They get a week-long fall break in October, a two-week long break in late December to celebrate the holidays, a week-long February winter break and a week-long spring break in April; the school year usually ends for students within the last two weeks of May and for teachers by the first few days in June.

Over the past few months, a calendar committee - made up of district administrators, teachers and parents - has met several times to discuss and research several calendar options for the 2009-10 school year.

As a result, the group produced four separate calendars they would like school system officials and the Newton County Board of Education to consider.

Balanced Calendar

The proposed balanced calendar, which is the most similar to the current calendar, would have teachers prepare for school starting July 27 and have students return to school on Aug. 3.

Students would still get a fall break, scheduled for the second week of October instead of the first, as well as a week-long Thanksgiving break, a two-week holiday break in December and January, a weeklong winter break in February and a weeklong spring break in April.

The calendar proposed to move October break to a week later for the possibility of losing state funding due to students not being in school on the first Tuesday in October, when the state officials count students, according to the NCSS Web site.

It also adds three early-release days for teacher professional learning.

Students would have their last day of the school year on May 28, and teachers would work until June 2 for post planning.

Mid-August Start Date

Calendar

The proposed calendar called the "Mid-August Start Date" will have students begin school Aug. 10, after teachers start preparing for the school year on July 31.

The calendar would eliminate the weeklong October fall break and February winter break; instead, students would get extra shorter school breaks near the weekend throughout the year. Students still would get a weeklong Thanksgiving break and spring break and a two-week long holiday break.

Like the Balanced Calendar, this calendar would give students three early-release days for teacher professional learning.

Students' last day of school would be May 28, and the teachers would work until June 2 for post planning.

Start After Labor Day Calendar

Another proposed calendar, the "Start After Labor Day" schedule, would have students begin the 2009-10 school year on Sept. 8, the Tuesday after Labor Day, which is when Newton County Schools started several years ago.

Like the "Mid-August Start Date" calendar, students wouldn't get week-long breaks in October and February, but they would get one- or two-day breaks near the weekends during the school year. Students also would get only a three-day Thanksgiving break, instead of the week-long break they get now, but they would continue to get a two-week long holiday break and a week-long spring break.

The first semester would end Jan. 29, instead of coordinating with winter break like it does now.

The school year would end June 18 for students and June 22 for teachers.

Four-Day School

Week Calendar

The proposed Four-Day School Week calendar would have the school week as Tuesday through Friday for 160 days, instead of the now 180-day calendar; students and staff would attend school for at least one hour longer per day than they do now to make up for the lost day.

In the past, several board members have discussed this option in order to save on fuel and other costs, but in November the board said state law would have to be changed in order for the school system to allow this calendar or they would have to be granted special permission from the state Legislature or the Georgia Department of Education.

Under the four-day calendar, the school year would run from July 28 through May 28. It would include a weeklong Thanksgiving break, a two-weeklong holiday break and a week-long spring break in April, as well as several one-day breaks and early release days for teacher workdays and professional learning development.

The school system is encouraging school system employees, parents, students and other NCSS stakeholders to vote on the calendars through the Web site, www.newtoncountyschools.org. Those who go to the Web site will select the "Community Feedback" tab and then click on the "Calendar Survey" link on that page; guests will choose one of the four options and must explain their choice with 500 characters or less. They have until Dec. 3 to voice their opinion on the Web site.

Once the school system collects opinions and votes from the Web site and input from school councils and a teachers' forum, NCSS Superintendent Steven Whatley will present a recommendation to the school board, tentatively set for the Dec. 9 combined work session and monthly meeting. The board meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and is held in the board room at the Newton County Board of Education building at 2109 Newton Drive in Covington.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.