Wake Ed

Wake County approves 2016-17 school year calendars

The Wake County school board adopted Tuesday the 2016-17 school year calendars – along with the list of makeup days that would be used – for most of the district’s 158,000 students.

The calendars for traditional, modified and year-round schools were adopted months later than normal because school administrators were trying to adjust to problems they said were caused by the state’s school calendar law. The law is causing traditional-calendar schools to start later than normal and end earlier than usual in the 2016-17 school year.

“I don’t think any of us love this calendar, but it’s the best we can do under the law,” said school board Vice Chairman Tom Benton.

Under the law, traditional-calendar schools can start no earlier than the Monday closest to Aug. 26 and end no later than the Friday closest to June 11. For the 2016-17 school year, that means classes can’t start before Aug. 29 or end after June 9.

Administrators went through multiple versions of the calendar to get one that would have more than four teacher workdays built in between the first and last day of classes. Workdays are used by teachers for professional development and to do their paperwork, such as entering end-of-quarter grades for students. Workdays can also be used to make up snow days.

To get in seven workdays, administrators took steps such as shortening winter break by a day and canceling a planned day off for students on the Jewish holy day of Rosh Hashanah.

The year-round schedule also underwent changes before adoption after parents complained about starting school on a Friday, July 8. The first day of school was moved to July 11, a Monday, to give parents a longer break from the end of the 2015-16 school year on June 30.

To start July 11, a planned day off on Jan. 2 2017 was dropped for year-round students.

The 2016-17 calendars for the early colleges will be approved at a later date. Those high schools need to have their schedules synched up with the colleges they partner with.

The last item to be worked out Tuesday was the makeup days that will be used in the 2016-17 school year.

Cathy Moore, deputy superintendent for school performance, said the makeup days were set in response to the lessons learned the past two years when eight days of classes were canceled. Many parents complained how Wake constantly changed the announced makeup days that would be used this year. At one point, administrators announced that spring break would be saved by holding classes on Saturdays before ultimately cutting three days from spring break.

The makeup days will be used in the order listed.

Administrators had proposed using two Saturdays – Oct. 29 and April 8 – as possible makeup days for traditional-calendar schools. But April 1 was chosen as the second Saturday makeup day after it was noted that attendance would be low on April 8 because it’s after the last day of classes before spring break.

A proposed April 8 makeup day for modified-calendar schools was moved to April 1 to match up with traditional-calendar schools.

The calendars on the district’s website still list April 8 as the weather makeup day. Administrators said they will update them shortly.

For now, if Oct. 29 and April 1 are used as makeup days they’d be full days for all students, including year-round students who usually only have half days on makeup days. If year-round schools, which make up all their snow days on Saturdays, are the only ones in session, they’ll have half days on their makeup days.

School board Vice Chairman Tom Benton argued that, for fairness, makeup days should be half days for all students. But Moore said that putting Saturday makeup days for traditional and modified schools as half days could make it hard for high schools to meet the state’s minimum requirement of 1,025 hours of instruction annually.