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New school calendar set PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brenda Johnson Brandt   

Following considerable discussion and review over the past several months, Holyoke School Dist. Re-1J Board of Education adopted the 2011-12 school calendar at its April 19 board meeting.

Students will start school Thursday, Aug. 18 and finish Thursday, May 24 in a calendar that includes 180 student/teacher contact days.

The primary change that led to more student/teacher contact days in the calendar is the change in first-Friday staff inservices.

For the past several years, these have been full-day inservices with no school for students. In the newly-adopted calendar, first Fridays will have late starts at 9 a.m., with staff inservice prior to that.

Other staff inservice time with no students includes Aug. 12 and 15-17; Thursday and Friday, Oct. 13-14; and Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 21-22.

Vacation time with neither staff nor students is set for Monday, Sept. 5, Labor Day; Wednesday-Friday, Nov. 23-25, Thanksgiving; Friday, Dec. 23-Monday, Jan. 2, winter break; Friday, Feb. 17; Thursday and Friday, March 8-9 (comp days for fall and spring evening parent/teacher conferences; and Thursday-Monday, April 5-9, Easter break.

Prior to adopting the calendar at last week’s meeting, board members emphasized the need to evaluate the changes made this year and consider that for future-year calendar discussion.

Linda Jelden said questions from staff have focused on whether the shift in schedule will allow for time in deep discussions together. She said principals are aware of these concerns, and she feels there are plans in the works to address those issues.

Jelden’s second concern was for how the district values instructor morale, workload and expectations. “I think a decision on the calendar is not just about the calendar.”

“I’m supportive of the calendar in the directive we gave administration for growth in achievement,” said Jelden, but she cited the importance of “being mindful of the people who are going to make it work for us.”

Jelden said her toughest issue is, “Will there be burnout at the end of the year?” Will longer breaks at Thanksgiving and Easter be for kids and their families or will shorter three-day breaks be better?

“I hope this is something we discuss. If we see we have a need, I hope we’re not afraid to change again,” Jelden added.

Dan Kafka said he likes how this calendar works toward the goals outlined in Destination 2016.

He added he shares Jelden’s desire for continued evaluation. “If we need to make a change, let’s change­—particularly in breaks in the springtime,” said Kafka.

Kim Killin expressed her concern for the double-edged sword of asking staff to do more to increase student achievement, with less time for staff discussion. She concurred with the need to be communicating with staff to make sure it’s working.

Jelden reiterated the need to recognize group time is important. As schedules and details are formed, the board will be watching to see if it’s working.

Kafka added it will be great to see success as the district moves forward.