Wake Ed

Wake County wants flexibility to start school year sooner

In the ideal world, Wake County’s traditional-calendar schools would start Aug. 22 and end June 7 for the 2016-17 school year.

But that’s not a legal option for Wake to do right now because of the state’s school calendar law. Instead, Wake school leaders are blaming the calendar law with causing them to consider scheduling two fewer days of classes than normal for the 2016-17 school year.

“It’s not an option that we would normally look at, but we’re so locked in with those dates for that one calendar year that that may wind up being the most instructionally sound option that we can come up with,” school board Vice Chairman Tom Benton said at Monday’s student achievement committee meeting.

North Carolina’s calendar law is resulting in traditional-calendar schools opening Aug. 29 and ending June 9 for the 2016-17 school year. That’s a later than usual start and an earlier than normal ending.

Staff’s first set of draft calendars were not warmly received by administrators or school board members. The main problem is it only has four teacher workdays built in between the first and last day of classes.

Wake would rather have more workdays than not within the school year so that teachers can use them for professional development and paperwork. Plus, they can increase the number of possible weather makeup days.

A new set of draft calendars presented Monday would give Wake a total of six teacher workdays between the first and last day of classes. But achieving that would mean turning two school days to workdays. If that option is adopted, staff also proposes extending the school day by five minutes to make up for the removed school days.

There’s also a third draft calendar that staff produced, called the “waiver calendar,” which would have Wake start Aug. 22, a week earlier than allowed by the calendar law. That calendar would have seven workdays during the school year but could be modified to have as many as nine.

Cathy Moore, deputy superintendent for school performance, said the waiver calendar provides “a lot more flexibility if we had a calendar law that was a lot more flexible.” But she also said that the waiver calendar is not legal.

The problem is Wake doesn’t qualify for the waiver that districts can get if they’ve missed enough days because of bad weather. That’s even though Wake has missed eight days of classes for each of the past two school years.

The state used to grant educational calendar waivers but that was removed by the legislature.

The school board may adopt the 2016-17 calendar in June.

School board member Bill Fletcher, chair of the student achievement committee, suggested that the district share the waiver calendar with people to explain why it’s preferred.

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