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NCSS mulls change to calendar

COVINGTON -- The Newton County School System once again is considering a change to its calendar system.

Linda Hayden, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction at NCSS, notified the Newton County Board of Education during its December meeting that school staff members and a calendar committee have been analyzing various calendar structures.

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 weeklong 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 considerations.

The committee members did not like that the option would not save any money, the start of the school year would be in July, the summer would be short and that child care needed to be found during weeklong 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 weeklong Thanksgiving break in November, a two-week-long break in December for a holiday break, a three-day break in February and a weeklong 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 to school on July 28, 2010, and ending school on May 25, 2011, a shortened school year.

It also would give students a weeklong Thanksgiving break, a two-week-long holiday break in December and a weeklong 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, give students three-day weekends along with 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, school 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.

158-Day Calendar

A 158-Day calendar also would call for a shortened number of school days during the school year.

Students would begin on Sept. 7, 2010, and continue until May 27, 2011.

The calendar allows for a weeklong Thanksgiving break, a two-week-long holiday break in December, a weeklong winter break in February and a weeklong spring break in April, as well as other half- and one-day holidays throughout the school year.

The committee liked that the calendar started after Labor Day, reducing energy costs by not having school in the typically hot month of August, it was a shorter school year, it would save the system money on fuel, electricity and salaries, provide for fewer work days and a long summer break, allow athletes to practice in a safer climate and provide for gas savings to employees, among other reasons.

However, they didn't like that there is no October break and fewer breaks within the school year, the summer could be too much of a break with no instruction, child care costs for parents could rise, school days would be longer, first semester would end after the holiday break in December and cafeteria and transportation employees could lose hours, among other reasons.

169-Day Calendar

A 169-Day calendar also would reduce 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 weeklong 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 said 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 paycuts, among others.

NCSS Superintendent Steven Whatley said if the school year was shortened from the current 180 days, the system would have to make sure the state would allow for it. He also wants to wait on changing the calendar until he gets information from the state about budgets, testing and other changes that may come in 2010.

Later this month, NCSS plans to post the calendars on its Web site, www.newtoncountyschools.org, for a vote to gather more information before a decision is made to change the calendar.

In 2008, NCSS and the school board also considered changing the balanced calendar to either a mid-August start date calendar, a start after Labor Day calendar or a four-day school week calendar. In the end, it chose to stick with a balanced calendar, at least for another school year.