School start changing in Spotsy?
By PAMELA GOULD
Spotsylvania County parents will hear about three options for next year’s school calendar Monday.
That’s two weeks earlier than planned, but more than one year later than they’re accustomed to having the calendar set.
Parents have been clamoring for a start date so they can plan for summer vacations, family reunions and child care when the next school year begins.
The options for the 2013–14 school year will include two proposals with a start date after Labor Day and one with an August start date, schools spokeswoman René Daniels said.
Spotsylvania has been one of the few divisions in the Fredericksburg area to begin the school year before Labor Day.
The intent in beginning classes in August, which the division started in 2005, was to provide more instructional time before state Standards of Learning tests. However, schools now have flexibility in setting the test dates, so that is no longer necessary.
First-year Superintendent Scott Baker established a committee last fall to launch a new process for creating the calendar. He wanted direct input from staff and parents rather than a survey as had been used in the past, Daniels said.
Last fall, principals held a meeting at their schools where anyone could offer suggestions on how the calendar should be created and explain why.
More than half of the school communities favored starting the instructional year after Labor Day, the Calendar Committee reported in November.
A post-Labor Day start would eliminate confusion for people transferring into the division, said Spotsylvania Education Association President Peter Pfotenhauer. He said new students sometimes get started late because parents didn’t know about Spotsylvania’s early start.
The Calendar Committee was scheduled to present its options for the 2013–14 school year Feb. 11 but on Tuesday Baker moved that up by two weeks.
The presentation date changed to next Monday to give people time to consider the options and comment before—or at—the Feb. 11 board meeting, when a vote will be taken.
The board was originally scheduled to vote Feb. 25 but that meeting was canceled to hold a budget work session later that week.
Board member Dawn Shelley, who serves on the Calendar Committee, realized the scheduling conflict Monday.
The schedule for deciding the 2014–15 school year remains unchanged. The committee will present its suggestions March 25 and the board will vote April 8.
Daniels said, hereafter, the division will approve an instructional calendar each April for the school year about 17 months away.
Board Chairwoman Amanda Blalock said she supported announcing the calendar options for this fall’s school year next Monday because she’s been getting calls and emails daily asking for the information.
She said she doesn’t have a preference on a pre- or post-Labor Day opening.
“I will vote for what the majority of my constituents want,” she said.
Her priority was establishing a calendar that prioritized educational goals and gave families something they could plan for long-term.
“I want a consistent, instruction-based calendar that is best for the children,” she said.
Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972
NEW CALENDAR SCHEDULE
Here are the revised dates for producing Spotsylvania’s school calendar for the next two years.
JAN. 28: Calendar Committee presents three options for 2013–14 school year to School Board and allows two weeks for public input.
FEB. 11: School Board hears public comment and approves the next fall’s calendar.
MARCH 25: Calendar Committee presents to the School Board its proposed calendar for the 2014–15 school year and allows two weeks for public comment.
APRIL 8: School Board hears public comment and approves the 2014–15 calendar.