A weeklong break at Thanksgiving is back on the 2014-15 calendar for the Bulloch County schools. But at the end of the school year, classes will continue until Friday, May 29, 2015, with no Memorial Day holiday.
That is a change from recent years, including the current school year, where the last day of school for students is the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. This year, the last day of school is Friday, May 23.
Under the newly approved calendar, students and teachers will also have week-long breaks in October, February and April. The first day of school for students will be Friday, Aug. 1 — the same starting date as in recent years. The Board of Education adopted this calendar Thursday after seeing the results of a survey of school employees.
The board's reconsideration of the calendar had organizations that provide child care clamoring for a finished version. Hayley Greene, the school system's public relations specialist, emailed copies immediately after the vote.
"Our preschools, the Averitt Center, the Recreation Department, a lot of them build their schedules based on our public school calendar, and so we were anxious to be able to get this approved and information out to them so they could begin planning their activities," Greene said.
A previously proposed calendar would have reduced the Thanksgiving break to three days while also extending school to Friday, May 29, but with Monday, May 25, 2015, off for Memorial Day.
After board members, in their Jan .9 meeting, voiced concerns about that calendar, Dr. Kevin Judy, the assistant superintendent for human resources, conducted a survey of school system employees using four possible calendars. These were distributed to school employees and posted in the schools.
Of 770 school system employees who responded using the website Survey Monkey, 407, or almost 53 percent, chose Option 4, the one now approved by the board.
This calendar was the top choice of teachers and certificate-holding support staff, with more than 53 percent of the 502 who responded supporting it. It was also the preferred option of more than 55 percent of the 229 non-certificate school personnel who responded.
In addition to the breaks already mentioned, the approved calendar includes Monday, Dec. 22, through Monday, Jan. 5, as the Christmas and New Year's break for students. High school graduations in 2015 are slated for Saturday, May 30, the day after class ends.
Option 3, the previously proposed calendar, was the favorite only among administrators, and then only of 16 of the 38 administrators who responded. This calendar would have shortened Thanksgiving break to three days and extended school to May 29, but with a Memorial Day holiday on Monday, May 25.
At the Jan. 9 meeting, some board members had voiced concerns that students' attendance and focus would decline during the four days after Memorial Day. They were also hearing objections from parents and teachers about the shortening of the Thanksgiving break.
The other two, less popular, options both ended school before Memorial Day and kept a weeklong break at Thanksgiving. But Option 1 would have shortened the fall (October) break and eliminated the winter (February) break, while moving the first day of school to Monday, Aug. 4. Option 2 would have delayed the start of classes to Aug. 7, eliminated fall break and reduced winter break to one day.
Board of Education members also had the opportunity to participate anonymously in the survey. Only one was shown to have done so, preferring Option 2. Parents were not surveyed.
After Judy presented the survey results, Superintendent Charles Wilson recommended Option 4. Board member Mike Sparks made the motion, seconded by Steve Hein, and the vote was unanimous.
All of the options included an increased number of professional development and planning days, when students are off but teachers work. In addition to four planning days at the end of July 2014 and two work days at the beginning of June 2015, teachers will have professional development days Sept. 2, Nov. 10, Jan. 5 and March 2, 2015.
School administrators say these are needed for training as teachers deal with new expectations. These include the Common Core State Standards, new student learning objectives and a related teacher evaluation system, plus local development of teacher planning teams called Professional Learning Communities.
Unpaid teacher furlough days, once a calendar consideration, appear unlikely after Gov. Nathan Deal proposed improved funding in his budget proposal, which he unveiled during his State of the State speech earlier this month. Troy Brown, the school system's chief financial officer, postponed an update slated for Thursday's meeting while awaiting revised information.
"We're very cautiously optimistic on what the governor has released," Brown told the board.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.