Garrard school officials seek input on alternative calendar

October 08, 2003|PHIL PENDLETON

LANCASTER - Garrard County school officials have started the ball rolling toward possibly moving to an alternative calendar for next school year. At Tuesday night's school board meeting people were given a chance to give their thoughts on a calendar that would include two-week breaks after every nine weeks of instruction.

"Is it an all year thing? Is that really what it is?" a woman asked.

"No ma'am," replied Superintendent Ray Woolsey.

Louie Hammonds gave samples of traditional and alternative calendars to the board members and those in the audience. If the school district adopts the alternative calendar, the first day of school next year will be Aug. 2. This year, students started back Aug. 4. The alternative schedule has a fall break from Oct. 4-15 then nine weeks of instruction followed by a two-week Christmas vacation, then another two-week spring break from March 14-25. Closing day would be tentatively set June 1. If Garrard misses several; days because of snow, the end-date could be pushed back to the second week of June.


Woolsey said the first week of the two-week breaks would be for enrichment and remediation. Students who are struggling would have a week after the first nine weeks to catch up. "Our goal is to reach that child when they first start to fall behind; not at the end of the year. Folks, that's not working," said Woolsey.

Enrichment would include optional classes for students wanting to take specialty subjects, such as guitar lessons or learn a foreign language.

One woman said she was concerned about a different calendar cutting into athletic events, such as Little League baseball during the summer.

Woolsey said he attended a conference on alternative calendars and said the biggest complaint did not deal with athletics or child care. "The biggest controversy came from churches. What to do about (vacation) Bible School," he said.

Woolsey said there has been no solid evidence that the new calendars work in Kentucky. "But school districts that have done this will tell you that teacher burnout is less evident, attendance is better and there are less discipline problems," he said.

A parent asked if changing calendars would affect the district's budget. Woolsey said it would not. He indicated that the cost of remediation would be taken care of by Extended School Services money, which currently funds the district's summer school programs. Another parent asked if school buses would run during the extended weeks and Woolsey said they would.

A woman asked if there would be help for parents who are not be able to afford enrichment courses for their children. "What about those who cannot afford to pay $25 for Spanish?"

Woolsey said that concern needs to be addressed. "In cases where we have kids that cannot afford to go on field trips, we always find a way for that child to participate," he said.

A man said while there is no solid proof alternative calendars work in Kentucky, he wanted to know if other states had done studies in seeing if the calendars are successful.

Woolsey said it can be shown alternative calendars work. "Statistically, there is proof it's successful in other areas," he said.

Another person voiced concern that teachers could get burned out by them not having enough time to prepare lesson plans during the summer. Later in the meeting Stanford Elementary kindergarten teacher Jason Bisher, who is currently on Lincoln County's first fall break, said he has witnessed no teacher burnout. He said some teachers at first questioned not having as long of a summer break but that there have been no complaints since. "As for teachers, they probably felt more prepared. They never missed a beat," he said.

Woolsey said he wants the community to voice their opinion on the possibility of changing calendars. "We don't want the public to say this is being shoved down your throats," he said. "We want to discuss it."

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