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Spotsy schools weigh post-Labor Day start

BY PAMELA GOULD

The Spotsylvania schools Calendar Committee is recommending the division start the next school year after Labor Day.

And, in response to an overwhelming request from the community, the committee is recommending the division use time built into the calendar rather than making up the first five days lost because of bad weather.

The committee presented the School Board with three options at Monday’s meeting, including two with a Sept. 3 start.

The third option included an Aug. 26 start.

Shifting to start school the day after Labor Day would align Spotsylvania with most school divisions in the region. It also would mean a later end to the school year.

This year, school started on Aug. 21 and ends June 6.

In the recommended calendar, the school year ends on June 13 and includes two full weeks off at Christmas and a spring break that runs for five days following Easter.

The difference between the recommended option and the second option is the length of the winter and spring breaks and the last day of school.

Option 2 gives students an eight-day winter break, returning on Jan. 2. That spring break would run for six days beginning the Friday before Easter.

The last day of school would be June 12, one day earlier than the recommended calendar.

Both calendars that start Sept. 3  hold high school graduations on June 6 and 7.

In the calendar with an August start date, the school  year ends on June 6, and graduations are on May 30 and 31.

That option  includes two weeks off at Christmas and a one-week spring break following Easter.

The school division began starting the school year before Labor Day in 2005 to provide students more instructional time prior to taking the state’s Standards of Learning tests.

That is no longer necessary, since schools now have flexibility in setting the test dates.

Any school division wishing to start the instructional year before Labor Day must get a waiver from the state every time it wants the early start.

Spotsylvania has traditionally set its instructional calendars about 16 months ahead of schedule.

Next fall’s schedule is currently under consideration because the former superintendent took no action on it, and new Superintendent Scott Baker wanted to take a different approach.

Last fall, he established a committee led by one principal from the elementary, middle and high school levels. Principals held community meetings to get direct input from staff and parents.

More than half of the school communities favored starting the instructional year after Labor Day, the Calendar Committee reported in November.

The School Board is scheduled to vote on its calendar choice for the 2013–14 school year at the Feb. 11 meeting.

The committee will present its 2014–15 calendar proposal on March 25.

Once both of those calendars are set, the division will establish April as the time to set future calendars so they are known about 16 months out, schools spokeswoman René Daniels said.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972

pgould@freelancestar.com

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