Wake County students will get some extra time off for Thanksgiving break starting in 2018.
The Wake County school board approved Tuesday the 2018-19 calendars for traditional, modified and year-round schools. The new schedules have Nov. 20, 2018 – the Tuesday before Thanksgiving – as an early release day for students on all three calendars.
The new schedules also no longer call for converting some early release days – when students are sent home 2.5 hours early – into full days for use as possible weather makeup days. In the past, Wake has converted two early-release days to replace one snow day.
It’s possible those two calendar changes could begin even sooner for the 2017-18 school year. Deputy Superintendent Cathy Moore said staff may ask the school board to modify the previously approved 2017-18 calendars to drop early release days from the makeup day list and have the Tuesday before Thanksgiving on Nov. 21 become an early release day for all schools.
Wake County sets calendars within the limits of the state’s school calendar law, which says schools can start no earlier than the Monday closest to Aug. 26 and end no later than the Friday closest to June 11. Charter schools and year-round schools are exempt from the law.
One of the questions that emerged during the development of the 2018-19 calendar was what to do during Thanksgiving week.
Wake has historically made the Wednesday before Thanksgiving a holiday for both students and staff or a teacher workday. This help families who travel for Thanksgiving.
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving in 2018 will be a day off for both students and staff on all calendars. Moore told the school board that the Superintendent’s Teacher Advisory Council asked the district to make the Tuesday before Thanksgiving an early release day.
Supporters of the change say it will help families. Critics say it will encourage students and teachers to take that Tuesday off when there’s only 1.5 days of classes that week.
But while the school board and staff took the advisory council’s suggestion about Thanksgiving Tuesday, they’re not taking the group’s recommendation to continue using early release days as makeup days. Some people say they’d rather use early release days than workdays, which are set aside for teachers to get caught up on their paperwork such as entering student grades.
But Moore said staff wants to protect the professional development time set aside for teachers on early release days. She cited how schools may pay money for people to come in those days to provide training.
Additionally, Moore said that it can be problematic for year-round schools to use early release days as makeup days.
If an early release day is turned into a makeup day, it has to be a full day of classes for everyone due to Wake’s multi-tier transportation system where buses serve multiple schools. Moore said families at year-round schools who were on break during a snow day object to having an early release day turned into a full day for them.
Even though the 2018-19 calendars are adopted, it’s possible Wake might change them later, especially if the district gets calendar flexibility.
Earlier this month, the state House approved legislation that would let any school district start classes as early as Aug. 15 to align with the calendar of its local community college. But House Bill 375 is expected to have a hard time getting Senate approval.