NEWARK – Following a few last minute changes at the request of the community, school system officials approved a 2017-2018 calendar this week.
The Worcester County Board of Education on Tuesday approved a calendar for the coming school year that begins on Sept. 5 and ends on June 15.
“We have one of the best calendars we’ve had in a while,” Superintendent Lou Taylor said. “It all fit extremely well.”
According to Carrie Sterrs, the school system’s coordinator of public relations and special programs, the calendar was selected with the help of a committee and community input. She said a 24-person committee developed two calendar options, one for “frequent flyers,” interested in long winter and spring breaks, and another for “surfers,” or those who wanted to end the school year as early as possible. In December, the community was invited to weigh in on the two options through an online survey. The school system received 1,103 responses.
Sterrs said the “frequent flyers” calendar proved the most popular, as it was selected by 660 people. The other calendar proposal was selected by 443 people.
Sterrs said the response rate throughout the county was fairly even. The schools with the most responses were Stephen Decatur High School (171) and Berlin Intermediate School (102).
As far as the respondents themselves, 51 percent identified as school system employees while 42 percent identified themselves as parents. Bus contractors made up 2 percent of responses, as did community members. Students accounted for 3 percent of the surveys completed.
While overall survey participation was 22 percent lower than it was last year, Sterrs believes that is because Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order mandated a post-Labor Day start for all of the state’s schools.
“Much of our comments in previous years were related to that debate,” she said.
The school system received 129 written responses in the open-ended section of the survey. Sterrs said those responses were basically separated into four groups. While a number of the responses consisted of general positive feedback, others requested an extended winter break. The final two categories of responses were more specific, as they requested the school system lessen the impact of professional development on the calendar and that the school system ask the state to reexamine the 180-day school year requirement.
Sterrs said Taylor took those suggestions into account as he made his calendar recommendation to the school board. The proposal was modified so the professional development day originally scheduled for Monday, Oct. 23, 2017 was changed to a half-day of professional development on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. Students will be dismissed early and professional development will take place during the afternoon.
“This change enables winter break, which now begins with a half day for students on Dec. 21, to be extended through Jan. 2,” Sterrs said.
She pointed out that though it was set for June 15, the last day of school would depend on the weather.
“As always, the last day of school is contingent on whether the three inclement weather days built into the calendar are utilized,” she said.
Taylor said he was satisfied with the calendar and was happy to give half-days a try in the coming school year to accommodate stakeholders’ requests.
“I’m very pleased with the way our calendar came out this year,” he said.