School Board Votes to Make Recommended Changes to 2020-21 Calendar
In the April 14 regular board meeting, the board voted 5-0 to make minor changes to next year's school calendar, as unanimously recommended here by the calendar committee on March 31.
Changes to the 2020-21 Calendar:
- Start Winter Break after the semester ends on Fri, Dec 18, 2020
- Teachers return to school on Mon, Jan 4, 2021
- Change Mon-Tue, Jan 4-5, 2021 to Teacher Work Days
- Students return to school on Wed, Jan 6, 2021 and second semester starts
- Reschedule (if possible, or cancel if not) the professional development on January 7-8, 2021 with Dr. Luis Cruz
- Move Teacher Collaboration Day from Wed, May 26, 2021 to Fri, Apr 16, 2021
- Make Tue, May 25, 2021 the final day for teachers
Trustees agreed to convene a new calendar committee in Fall 2020 to look at the 2021-22 school calendar and beyond with guidelines provided by the board.
The calendar committee and the board also discussed the mid-August start date for the school year. The calendar committee unanimously recommended making only the minor changes above and not changing the start date of the school year.
Advantages of a mid-August start:
SEMESTERS VS TRIMESTERS
- Schools on a semester system usually start in mid-August and end before Winter Break. There is not enough time to fit a whole semester in before Winter Break if the start date is any later.
- Schools on trimesters often start in September because they only have one trimester before Winter Break and two after (we used to be on a trimester system).
- High school students are experiencing record high stress levels, resulting in mental health issues. Finishing finals before Winter Break gives students a much-needed, real break from school, without the pressure of returning to finals.
- For high school students already overwhelmed by school, returning from a long break in January to finals in current classes AND a new semester schedule, classes, and teachers shortly thereafter is particularly hard.
ENGAGING WITH THE WORLD
- The board specifically directed the committee to propose a calendar that supports student participation in a wide range of school-related activities including competitions, extracurricular programs, dual credit opportunities, etc.
- While primary school calendars can generally be flexible and fit local needs without adversely affecting students, the opportunities that secondary schools offer their students are inextricably linked with institutions outside of our school district, whose calendars we don't control. This includes dual credit opportunities at U of I, CWI, CSI, and sports, debate, and various engagements with the other school districts in our division. All of these schools start early and finish the first semester before Winter Break.
- Separate calendars for primary and secondary are problematic: some parents have kids in both, it divides the district, and it costs a lot more to run.
- As a result, the secondary calendar drives the district calendar.
- About 25-30% of 10th and 11th graders and about 55% of 12 graders take at least one dual credit or AP class in the fall, and all sophomores and seniors at Carey take a dual credit class
- Starting early maximizes teaching time for AP tests which are held in early May
- Dual credit classes at U of I, CWI, and CSI all finish the first semester before Winter Break, as well as the other districts that participate in their dual credit program
- Taking dual credit and/or AP courses is a factor considered by university admissions departments
- Doing well in dual credit and AP classes can help reduce the cost of college and build higher ed competency
- IRI, ISAT, PSAT, and SAT tests are all at fixed times - an early start to the school year helps with student preparation and performance
PREFERRED BY HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS AND STAFF
- A survey of students was conducted at WRHS and SCHS in January 2020 after finishing the semester prior to Winter Break. There was overwhelming student support for finishing the semester early. Of 542 responses, 56% found very helpful, 26% found it somewhat helpful. Only 4% found it "not helpful."
- In a paper survey done at the high school, teachers strongly supported finishing the semester before Winter Break.
- Students have increased trouble staying focused by the end of May, especially when students in other districts are already getting out of school.
FALL SPORTS PROGRAMS START EARLY
- Sports schedules are tied to the school districts in our division, which all start early.
- Almost 30% of WRHS students participate in fall sports: soccer (78), football (60), cheerleading (20), swim team (25), cross country (25), mountain biking (30) and volleyball (34) out of 945 total. Carey is impacted as well.
Advantages of a later start and later end to the school year:
INCREASED ACADEMIC TIME IN MAY
- Provides more time to work with juniors on their college essays before summer break.
- WRHS students who take AP tests in early May have more review time before WRHS finals.
LOWER HISPANIC ATTENDANCE IN DECEMBER
- More and more Hispanic students are leaving for the month of December. Having final exams in January is better for some of them because it gives them time to make up work before the next semester starts. It is hard for students to think about making up an exam while starting a new semester.
- Might have better Hispanic attendance if return Jan 11 instead – need statistics on this
DECEMBER IS BUSY
- Sports tournaments and winter performances during finals can be overwhelming.
- Increases opportunities for teens to make money for college during the busy summer tourist season.
- Some parents and staff prefer to vacation and recreate in August.
- The businesses that hire teens and teachers over the summer lose daytime weekday workers when everyone goes back to school in August.