With three new trustees and a superintendent who were not part of the new school calendar drafting, the trustees and superintendent discussed at length the decision to hold an assessment period for the new calendar. The board unanimously agreed that a “test” period for the new calendar is in the best interest of the parents and students in the school district.
The calendar’s major new features include an earlier start date in August, shorter summer vacation, extended winter and spring breaks and the addition of a week-long fall break in October. Superintendent Pedro Martinez told the Board of Trustees Tuesday factors such as multiple start dates and multi-track year-round schools contributed in the decision to adopt the calendar.
“One of the reasons we have had so many start dates is because we have so many of our schools overcrowded because of population shifts and we have put them on multi-track,” Martinez said. “Multi-track is one of the most difficult schedules parents and students can be on. Within two years all the schools will be off multi-track, and that is just one component of the calendar piece.”
Martinez said he has witnessed similar calendars be phased in while working in other districts and said “parents and teachers really fall in love with this calendar.” He said students and teachers use the extended breaks to catch up or rest and a single start date allows for a smooth opening for the entire district.
Dr. Bryn Lapenta, senior director of student accounting for WCSD, led the drafting process of the new calendar and said much of the changes reflect the needs she and her team found during several community forums and parent meetings.
“We went out in the community in 2011 prior to our survey and collected data before we used surveys for even more data from parents,” Lapenta said. “Then we went back out and had 50 meetings to make sure we talked to everyone. One of the things I heard from parents was they agreed there is a learning loss in having a long summer.”
Lapenta said the extended breaks in the new calendar have been strategically placed before state-required exams to allow students the opportunity to prepare. The district is also adopting an “intersession” strategy, which will allow students, who have fallen behind or wish to push forward during the breaks, access to resources in the schools.
Lapenta added data to be collected during the trial run of the calendar will initially analyze various cost savings and parent, student and teacher reaction. Maria Toca-Ruiz, a senior at Galena High School and student representative on the Board of Trustees, said the new calendar looks appealing to students and that parents will likely be eased of concerns.
“I think that a lot of people are going to be very apprehensive at the beginning so it is good it is going to be tested first,” Toca-Ruiz said. “I think that, from a high school point of view, looking at the calendar and seeing the different breaks throughout the year, especially in the second semester, it's good because in the first semester you go through all these breaks and second semester you barely have any time on break.
“I think parents are going to see their child improve in school and in going to school they won’t be as tired just because they are getting more breaks throughout the year. Coming back from winter break you are fresh and not as tired and you are ready to come back to school. So it is a good idea.”
Lapenta said the two-year approval of the calendar will give her team a great opportunity to review the new system before drafting the 2015-2016 calendar. Based on the reaction of parents during the preliminary community meetings, she expects the new calendar, even with minor tweaks to specifics, will be accepted by the community, students and school district.
“When we did a survey in May of 2011, it had about 50 percent of parents advocating for the change in the calendar and the trustees said the parents they had spoken to liked it and said ‘let’s go find out more about it,’” Lapenta said. “Then we held more town hall meetings and 60 percent or more said that people wanted to move forward with it.”
To find out more about the new school calendar visit www.washoe.k12.nv.us.