To be clear, the Bulloch County Schools still expect students in class for two storm makeup days Nov. 25 and 26, the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving, this year.
However, in adopting the school calendar for next school year, 2020-21, the Board of Education recently moved the potential fall semester 2020 makeup days out of Thanksgiving week, to Oct. 19-20, 2020. Otherwise, the 2020-21 calendar approved by the board at its Oct. 10 meeting attempts to restore next year’s October break to the expected week of the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair.
Earlier this year, a committee proposed two options for the 2020-21 calendar. Option 1 had school starting for students Aug. 3, similar to this year, while Option 2 had school starting later, Aug. 12. When 609 school system employees responded to the committee’s survey, 56% of them chose the Aug. 3 option, while 53% of principals and assistant principals chose the calendar with the Aug. 12 start date.
Option 1 and Option 2, both of which have now been discarded, also proposed other changes. Both calendars would have reduced what has been a five-day February break to two days, and one of the options would have cut the five-day October break to three days. But board members put the decision on hold in July and invited input from parents and others in the community.
In the end, Superintendent Charles Wilson recommended a calendar very much like the current school year’s. Under the approved calendar, school will start for students on Aug. 3 next year, and there will be five-day breaks in October, November, February and April, plus a more than two-week break at Christmas and New Year’s.
“What I’m recommending to you is what’s known as the status quo calendar, and the reason it’s called that is that it is not Option 1 or Option 2 as previously discussed,” Wilson told school board members Oct. 10. “This is a calendar that really represents the framework we’re in this year, the same breaks.”
Except, he noted, it does have fall break during “fair week.”
“Based on the input we got, employees said this and then the community said this,” Wilson said. “I’ll be honest with you, at this point I just feel I don’t want to put one group being the winner over the other. … I’m just going to step back and go with the same concept we have now.”
After he said that, District 3 member Stuart Tedders made a motion to adopt the “status quo” calendar, and was seconded by District 7 member Heather Mims.
But in the months that the 2020-21 calendar decision was on hold, Hurricane Dorian had prompted the cancellation of two days of school. Afterward, Wilson invoked the use of two of the four potential makeup days built into the long-established current-year calendar, turning Nov. 25 and 26, 2019, into class days.
Afterward, board members heard from parents, especially some who had planned family travel, who were not happy about the loss of Monday and Tuesday of the Thanksgiving break.
“Since I have taken office in January, the most flack I have gotten about anything is these Thanksgiving days,” said District 4 member April Newkirk. “I mean, I hadn’t been stopped in the grocery store before, but I have now, multiple times. … Students’ families plan on these days to travel to see their families.”
She said she was hoping foremost that the calendar would be restored to the traditional 180 class days. That part of her concern was not taken up by other board members, and the approved 2020-21 calendar still contains 177 class days.
But Newkirk moved to amend the motion for approval and transfer the next year’s potential fall makeup days from Nov. 23-24 to Oct. 19-20. The amended motion, seconded by District 8 member Maurice Hill, was approved 8-0.
So the potential makeup days next fall will be the Monday and the Tuesday of the expected fair week, not during Thanksgiving week.
Again, this year the Nov. 25 and 26 makeup days remain in effect. Two spring semester potential makeup days, April 6-7, 2020, also remain on the calendar if any further weather cancellations prompt their use. The decision on whether to use them would be Wilson’s to make, in consultation with the board members, he said.
The board has less control over whether the school system’s October break aligns with the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair. The Kiwanis Club of Statesboro sets the fair dates, and the final decision depends on the availability of the rides and other attractions during a season when there are other fairs.
After this year’s school calendar was adopted far in advance, in fact along with the previous year’s calendar in January 2018, students were out on break all last week, but the fair is next week.
“It was the dates we had been given by Kiwanis, and then their schedule had to change,” Hayley Greene, the Bulloch County Schools public relations and marketing specialist, replied in an email.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.