Wake County school board dropping Yom Kippur teacher workday

Posted by T. Keung Hui on May 9, 2014 

It appears that Wake County’s traditional-calendar students will not get Yom Kippur off as as teacher workday in 2015.

On Thursday, school board members told administrators to get feedback on two possible calendars for the 2015-16 school year that drop the proposed teacher workday on Yom Kippur, which is the holiest day of the Jewish year. Board members acknowledged the impact of the change and said it will be communicated that Jewish students can get an excused absence if they take that day off.

The tentative elimination of the Yom Kippur workday in 2015 revolves around school leaders saying it’s better to give students two full weeks off for winter break while finding enough time for teachers to have planning before school starts and avoiding a workday on a Wednesday.

Click here for a blog post about how board members raised concerns Tuesday about how a Sept. 23, 2015 teacher workday would be inconvenient for families because it’s in the middle of the week. That workday was proposed as part of the district’s practice to try to have a workday on either Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashanah.

Click here for a blog post about board members asking staff to also revise the proposed 2015-16 schedule for traditional-calendar schools to make it possible for students to have Dec. 21 and Dec. 22 off so that winter break would go two full weeks. Click here for links to different calendar options presented Tuesday.

Fast forward to Thursday’s student achievement committee meeting where staff presented two more versions of the calendar. Click here to view them.

Version 7 moves the Yom Kippur workday to April 25. It’s a variant of Version 6 that has five workdays in August the week before classes start. It also allows the last day of classes to be June 8 with June 9 and June 10 serving as workdays and potential makeup days.

Board members had liked Version 6 because it gave the maximum number of days for teachers to have planning time in August. But board members hadn’t liked not having a workday between April 1 and May 27, something Version 7 rectifies.

As it was noted that Yom Kippur would now be a regular school day, school board chairwoman Christine Kushner said they can reiterate to parents that their children can receive an excused absence for their religious faith.

Board member Bill Fletcher said that federal law requires them to base calendar decisions on likely attendance for a day and not that it’s a religious holiday.

Staff then went over Version 8, which moves the Sept. 23 workday to Feb. 16. While that day is a Tuesday, it would come right after President’s Day to give families a four-day weekend.

Version 8 is a variant of version 3 with four workdays the week before classes start. Classes would end on June 9.

Board members asked how many workdays are needed by teachers the week before classes start.

Cathy Moore, deputy superintendent for school performance, said that she was able to make it work with four days when she was a principal. She said one of the days is used for Central Services training and two days are used for staff meetings and open houses.

Moore said the final day can be protected for planning time for teachers.

School board member Jim Martin said he’d like to get input from teachers on the two options.

Moore said that they can send both new versions to the Superintendent’s Teacher Advisory Council and the calendar committee that developed the initial calendar.

The board vote is expected at the May 20 meeting.

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