NCSS asks for input on calendar

COVINGTON -- The Newton County School System is seeking input from parents as it looks at four calendar options for the 2010-11 school year. They're asking that parents log on to the school system Web site at www.newtoncountyschools.org and take the survey offered.

"(Parents) are invited and encouraged to review the four options and their listing of pros and cons, and then take our calendar survey to provide feedback on which calendar they prefer and why," said NCSS Director of Public Relations Sherri Viniard. "(Parental) input is valued and will be taken into consideration when the superintendent prepares a final calendar recommendation for board approval."

Viniard went on to say that after the choice is made, further adjustment could be necessary due to legislative actions, local budget concerns and inclement weather.

The four choices were developed by school staff and a calendar committee who analyzed various calendar structures and are listed below:

Balanced Calendar

The balanced calendar, which NCSS has used for several years, will have students begin school on July 29, 2010, and continue until May 26, 2011, for the 2010-11 school year.

It would allow for week-long breaks in October for fall break, November for Thanksgiving break, February for winter break and April for spring break; it also would allow two weeks at the end of December for a holiday break. Early dismissal for parent conferences and teacher work days would be scheduled throughout the school year, according to the calendar.

According to a list of pros and cons developed by the calendar committee, the committee members like that the balanced calendar allowed for lots of breaks, it was familiar, the summer break was shorter than other calendars and that the first semester ends before the December break, among other reasons.

The committee members did not like that the option would not save any money, the start of the school year was in July, the summer was short and that child care needed to be found during week-long breaks, among other reasons.

August Start Date Calendar

A calendar identified as an "August Start Date" calendar would have students start school on Aug. 4, 2010, and continue until May 24, 2011.

It would allow for a two-day break in October, a week-long Thanksgiving break in November, a two-week-long break in December for a holiday break, a three-day break in February and a week-long spring break in April, as well as additional half- and one-day holidays throughout the school year for teacher work days and other holidays.

The committee members liked that the calendar was similar to a balanced calendar, provided for a longer summer and allowed for a week-long Thanksgiving break. But they didn't like that the calendar did not allow for an October break and that it also did not provide any cost savings to the district.

4-Day Week Calendar

A 4-Day Week calendar would give students a three-day weekend each week, from Saturday through Monday, after starting school July 28, 2010 and ending school on May 25, 2011, a shortened school year.

It also would give students a week-long Thanksgiving break, a two-week-long holiday break in December and a week-long spring break in April.

Committee members liked that it would save money for NCSS on diesel fuel, electricity and salaries; decrease air pollution and diesel fuel consumption; gives students three-day weekends and still most breaks, while staff would have teacher work days on some Mondays; and would provide gas savings to employees, among other reasons.

They didn't like that families might have to find child care for Mondays, teachers would have to teach the curriculum in a shorter amount of days, schools days would be longer, cafeteria and transportation employees would lose hours, it would affect athletic practice schedules and low-income students could miss meals on Mondays, among other reasons.

169 Day Calendar

A 169-Day calendar also would shorten the number of school days.

The calendar calls for students to begin the 2010-11 school year on Aug. 12, and continue until May 19.

The calendar gives students a week-long break during Thanksgiving, February and April and a two-week-long break during December for the holidays with other holidays scheduled throughout the year.

Committee members like the mid-August start date and see the calendar would save NCSS money on diesel fuel, electricity and salaries; it would call for a shorter school year and a later spring break in late April with the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests held before it; and employees could save gas, among other reasons.

They did not like that there is a shorter winter break and no October break and that there would be 14 weeks before an extended break; the later spring break is not coordinated with surrounding districts; not many breaks are scheduled; school days would be longer and classified employees would receive significant pay cuts, among others.

-- Staff reporter Michelle Floyd contributed to this story.