Schools Granted Waiver on Extra Days
Moore County students will not have to attend school for five additional days this year thanks to a waiver the school system has received from the state.
Superintendent Susan Purser said Monday that the school system has received a waiver from the N.C. Department of Instruction (DPI) to remove five student days added to the 2011-2012 calendar as a mandate under the budget by the N.C. General Assembly this year.
On Monday evening, central office sent out a Connect-Ed voice mail to parents and staff to let them know about the calendar change. A revised calendar is also posted on the system’s website.
After voting to seek the waiver during its meeting Oct. 10, the Moore County Board of Education gave preliminary approval to the revised calendar during a work session Friday, pending the state’s decision.
The revised version redistributes professional development sessions throughout the remainder of the year and takes away early release days that were originally scheduled as additional student days.
Students will not attend class Nov. 10, Dec. 16 (for year-round calendar students), Dec. 21 (for traditional calendar students), Jan. 23, March 21 and April 25.
Oct. 26 is an early release day that was added to the system calendar as one of the additional student days, but the board chose not to change the day into a teacher workday because members felt it would give families little notice.
“Considering we approved a calendar change Oct. 14, and we were still waiting to hear from DPI [on Friday], we weren’t going to expect people to find something to do with their kids in less than two weeks,” Board Chairwoman Laura Lang said Tuesday. “We figure [Nov. 10] will give families more time to handle the change.”
With the waiver, school systems are required to dedicate those new teacher workdays to professional development centered on the common core and N.C. Essentials curriculum that will go into effect next year.
Purser said she has restructured the system’s schedule for professional development sessions so that teachers will be able to spend more time at their schools on workdays, instead of going to a centralized location for the sessions.
On some days, teachers will spend half their time in their classrooms and half their time in professional development sessions.
“We’ve redefined it,” Purser said. “They are going to get more time at their schools, and we will be able to do the professional development. It’s how we’ve been creative.”
Lang said that though the waiver does not give teachers the ideal full days to work in their classrooms, it does alleviate the pressure to cram instructional time and professional development sessions into the early release days that were previously in the calendar.
She added that by stretching out the professional development sessions and holding some sessions at individual schools, teachers will feel less pressure to learn the new material all at once.
“It did open up some opportunity for repeating the material instead of doing it all in a quick day,” Lang said. “This will spread it out over time, so we’re doing [professional development] more often. It kind of reinforces the education.”
After the General Assembly amended the state calendar law to include the five additional days as a measure in this year’s budget, the State Board of Education sought a waiver for the 2011-2012 year to help school systems as they prepare to implement the new academic curriculum.
Moore County was one of the few school systems that did not seek the waiver prior to the start of the school year.
Purser said that at the time the waiver was announced, the board had already amended its calendar for the upcoming year twice to include the five additional days, and the school system had gone through several major changes resulting from the budget process.
“We had just dealt with the closing of Academy Heights and had just adopted a revised calendar,” she said. “Then they came out with a waiver. We felt like we had bounced our families around enough. We were concerned about that so we did not apply for the waiver.”
Purser added that though the removal of the days will provide more breathing room this year, the school system will be expected to incorporate those five additional days next year.
“On next year’s calendar, there are no waivers,” she said.
Between Aug. 25 and June 10 of the 2012-2013 year, the school system is expected to incorporate 215 weekdays into the school year that will include 185 instructional days along with teacher workdays, holidays and regular student breaks.
“It’s tight,” Purser said. “I tell you there isn’t a whole lot of room.”
Purser wouldn’t comment on whether or not early release days will be utilized to incorporate both student days and teacher workdays next year since she is retiring in December, but she did say that because of North Carolina’s restrictive calendar law, drafting a calendar presents challenges each year.
“It’s not a calendar I’m going to supervise,” she said. “But it’s really hard. We recognize that early release is not our first choice on a routine basis, but the calendar law in North Carolina is so extreme that it makes it difficult.”
She added that the law in its current state offers little to no opportunities for teachers to really be prepared.
“The opportunity to come together to discuss the curriculum, to make plans, to learn instructional strategies — that’s important to have, and the General Assembly has cut them all out,” she said.
The school board is expected to review a proposed 2012-2013 calendar, which includes the five additional days, at its meeting next month.
Purser said it is doubtful that the General Assembly will consider removing the additional days for next year’s calendar.
“They were emphatic they would allow the waiver one time,” she said. “I’ll be optimistic and say they may, but I’m not going to put any money on it.”
To view the revised calendars, click here.
Contact Hannah Sharpe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More like this story