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School system wants your vote on 2019-20 calendar

Editor’s note: This is the correct version of an article mistakenly published on Page 1B Thursday in draft form.

By Maggie Blackwell

For the Salisbury Post

SALISBURY — Rowan-Salisbury Schools has three calendar options for school year 2019-20, and it wants you to vote for your choice.

It’s the first thing you’ll see on the school system’s website, www.rssed.org.

Alesia Burnette, RSS compliance director, encourages parents to watch the explanatory video, consider the three calendars and click on the survey to vote for their choice.

In the past, a team of teachers, administrators and parents developed the calendar. This year as the system approaches the renewal designation, the team was made up of teachers – one from each school’s teacher-led design team. Parents are involved this year in the voting phase.

Burnette led the team.

“The invitation went out to each school to select a teacher to participate in the calendar design process,” Burnette said. “We also included our payroll people to align with payroll procedures. We included food services, transportation, human resources, and invited people from all aspects of the school district. Altogether we had 40 members, predominantly teachers.”

The group met three times and started by looking at the current calendar and state guidelines, she said.

The school board gave the group two goals: an earlier start in the year and more planning time for teachers.

The system has the option to have 185 days of instruction or 1,025 hours. RSS recently changed from the day count to hours.

“We keep a sharp eye on those times, particularly with snow makeup days,” Burnette says. “Lunch, recess and breaks between classes cannot count toward these hours. In addition, we have federal holidays and teacher development to consider. Then we really just let the team divide up and brainstorm.”

Under the renewal designation, RSS is no longer bound by the state rule to start the school year no earlier than the Monday closest to Aug. 26 and end the year no later than the Friday closest to June 11.

For years, Burnette says, students and parents alike have asked to end the first semester – and let students complete exams – before Christmas break. The only way to accomplish this was to start the school year much earlier.

At a second meeting, the teams came up with six draft calendars. They took all those options back to their schools for feedback. At the third meeting, they pooled their feedback and narrowed the choices to the three options being presented to the public.

The most significant change is the start date for the school year. Two of the calendars start school on Aug. 1; the third calendar starts school Aug. 7.

Another benefit of starting school early in August, as noted in the comments, is that the school year ends before Memorial Day.

Another difference in the calendars is the timing of spring break. One calendar places spring break in March, far from the April 12, 2020, date of Easter. The other calendars frame Easter with spring break before or after the holiday.

“Spring break was a really big discussion among the teachers,” Bunette says. “Their rationale was, instead of a spring break that’s holiday-based, this longer break is at the end of the third nine weeks. It’s the natural end of the learning period and would provide a respite for the students. Many districts and community colleges prefer to look at learning periods rather than holidays to structure their breaks.”

Burnette notes that school nutrition staff will continue to provide breakfast and lunch in June and July and continue to run the “Yum Yum” buses. “We will continue to run those breakfast and lunch buses throughout the county all summer long,” she says. “The calendar does not impact that service.”

The next school year will be a time of transition, Burdette says.

“For teachers who have been around a while, we did use to start the school year earlier before the state guideline came out. We really want our students to go home for winter break having finished exams. For this reason, starting the school year earlier is important.

“We ask that people be patient with us as we navigate newer challenges and provide services to our students. Hopefully, those who have been asking for a clear semester break prior to Christmas will be glad we accomplished that.”

Burnette will present results of the survey to the school board at the end of November. The board may agree with the public or may send the issue back to the committee for further work.

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