Wake County school system looks at expanding 2015 winter break

Posted by T. Keung Hui on May 7, 2014 

Wake County’s traditional-calendar students could have two full weeks off for winter break in 2015. But how that will be accomplished is still unresolved.

The draft 2015-16 school year calendar initially had traditional-calendar students starting their winter break on Dec. 23, a Wednesday. School board members asked staff to look at how to allow students and staff to have Dec. 21 and Dec. 22 off as well.

There are pros and cons to the alternatives developed by staff.

Click here to view the draft 2015-16 calendars for traditional-calendar, modified-calendar and year-round schools. Calendars for the early colleges and leadership academies won’t come until after the calendars of the colleges and universities that those schools work with are finalized.

Version 1 is what was presented to the school board on April 22. The calendar was developed by the calendar committee, which consists of teachers, administrators, parents and community members.

Staff developed five alternatives for the traditional calendar with versions 2, 3 and 6 presented on Tuesday. All three versions have Dec. 21 and Dec. 22 as teacher workdays with different calendar adjustments to make it possible.

Version 2 eliminates workdays scheduled for Aug. 17-18. The workdays that were on June 9-10 are now on June 13-14.

Under version 1, Aug. 17 and Aug. 18 form the start of block of five consecutive workdays that teachers can use before students start classes on Aug. 24.

In version 1, the last day of school is June 8. But Wake could, if needed, use the workdays on June 9 and 10 as makeup days. Traditional-calendar schools are allowed to have classes up to the Friday closest to June 10.

By having workdays on June 13 and 14 in version 2, those can no longer be used as makeup days. This gives Wake two fewer possible makeup days if bad weather really hits.

Version 3 only removes the Aug. 17 workday. The last day of school moves a day to June 9 with June 10 still available as a teacher workday/makeup day. A workday is added to June 13 that couldn’t be used as a makeup day.

Version 6 doesn’t change any of the August workdays or the ones in June. Instead, Feb. 16 and April 25 go from being teacher workdays to regular days of classes. 

School board member Kevin Hill said he prefers version 3 because it only cuts one of the August workdays. Hill, a retired principal and teacher, cited the large number of beginning teachers in Wake and said they need the time before school starts to get ready.

"They're going to need the four days for planning,” Hill said.

While version 6 keeps five workdays before classes start, Hill said he didn’t like how the elimination of the April 25 workday means there’s no break between April 1 and May 27. He said that’s an “awful long time” not to have a break. Hill said he likes having the April 25 workday before Advanced Placement exams start to allow teachers time to get caught up on their paperwork.

School board member Zora Felton, a retired teacher, said she didn’t like version 2 because it only had three workdays in August before classes start. She said that’s not enough planning time considering how at least one of the workdays is usually a day for staff meetings.

School board vice chairman Tom Benton, a retired principal and teacher, asked if the calendar committee could look at the variations that were proposed. He said he wanted feedback in case there are unintended consequences of not going with version 1.

Cathy Moore, deputy superintendent for school performance, told board members they can provide version 3 to the calendar committee to evaluate. Moore said that the committee will also look at the concerns raised about having one of the teacher workdays on a Wednesday. As previously blogged, the proposed Sept. 23 workday coincides with Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.

The adoption of the 2015-16 calendars is expected to take place May 20.

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