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Newton school board to vote on calendar

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- Students, parents and teachers may know their school schedule for next year later this month.

The Newton County Board of Education got a first look at some calendar options for next school year at a day-long planning session on Friday.

Dr. Sheila Thomas presented two calendar options for the 2011-12 school year that she developed with the help of a calendar committee, which was comprised of one representative from each school and several central office administrators, as well as another option that she developed based on suggestions from other school staff members.

Thomas said the committee based options on several factors -- they wanted students in class for the PSAT testing date in October and for the first semester to end before the holiday break in December; elementary teachers wanted four preplanning days and one post-planning day and secondary teachers wanted three preplanning days and two post-planning days; some members wanted the entire week of Thanksgiving off and the entire week for fall and winter breaks; they wanted two early release days for parent conferences and four for professional learning and they wanted a calendar with at least 178 student days.

Each calendar option had the first day of school for students on Thursday, Aug. 4 and the last day on Wednesday, May 23; elementary teachers would begin on Friday, July 29 and end Thursday, May 24, and secondary teachers would begin on Monday, Aug. 1, and end of Friday, May 25.

Each also includes a Labor Day holiday on Sept. 5; early release days for parent conferences on Friday, Oct. 7 and Feb. 17; early release days for professional learning on Friday, Sept. 2, Nov. 11, Jan. 13 and March 16; a teacher work day on Tuesday, Jan. 3 after winter break; a Martin Luther King holiday on Monday, Jan. 16; and a spring break from April 2 through 6.

The first two options had fall break scheduled for a week, from Oct. 17 to 21, and a third option had it scheduled from Wednesday, Oct. 19 through Friday, Oct. 21. The first option had Thanksgiving break scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 23, through Friday 25, while the second two options had it scheduled for the entire week. The second option had the holiday break scheduled from Wednesday, Dec. 21, to Monday, Jan. 2, while the other two options had it scheduled starting that Monday.

Most of the school board members, as well as Mathews, preferred the third option -- a shortened fall break, a week-long Thanksgiving break and a full two-week long holiday break.

Unlike in the past, the public won't be asked to weigh in on the calendar options.

"There is so little difference," Mathews said.

Board members expressed interest in voting on a calendar during the March 8 work session, which is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in the board room at the Newton County BOE building at 2109 Newton Drive NE in Covington.

Mathews warned the school board members that even if they approve a calendar option then, it could change later this year if further budget cuts occur. The school board is in the process of making decisions to cut at least $9 million from the system budget for next school year. Options that could be considered include reducing the school year by one day for students and reducing employee work days by one additional day for a $950,000 savings and changing school schedules to one of three choices -- a four-day school week would save $820,000, 158 school days would save $750,000 or 169 school days would save $375,000.

"I just don't know if we can stick with (the calendar)," Mathews said. "We may be back in a month or two making additional cuts ... and you may end up having to change it."