03/28/12 — Wayne County Public Schools will add five days in 2012-13

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Wayne County Public Schools will add five days in 2012-13

By From Staff And Wire Reports
Published in News on March 28, 2012 1:46 PM

Wayne County Public Schools is among the few school districts in the state that will take advantage of the state adding five extra days to the school calendar next year -- but those days will be used for teacher training.

Most counties in the state, given the option, chose not to add the extra days in 2012-13.

State public school officials on Monday overrode the requirement passed by state lawmakers adding the extra days for the second straight year after local school boards complained that the mandate to spend the extra money to operate buses and buildings wasn't coming with any additional funds.

School districts estimated it could cost them about $14 million statewide to hold five more days of classes in the 2012-13 academic year, state schools Superintendent June Atkinson said.

But Wayne officials decided to use the five days.

"We have been approved for the waiver to use those five added days as professional development days for teachers," Ken Derksen, the school district's director of communication services, said this morning. "That's what we did this school year.

"In essence, next year on those days, the district will do professional development in the areas of common core and essential standards, which replace the standard course of study, and in the areas of response to instruction, positive behavior intervention support and best practices for teaching and learning."

In response to the state's decision, officials are now in the process of revising the school calendar for the upcoming year, Derksen said.

"The district will have to determine where these five days will be put back into the calendar," he said.

School leaders in many counties also said since the extra days would be taken out of time allotted for teacher preparation, it would displace needed training time ahead of a statewide course of study rolling out next fall.

"We projected it would cost $14 million and that was a factor, but another factor is that we will be implementing new standards in all grades and all subjects next year and we felt as if you could really accelerate student learning if teachers had more time to learn and work with those standards," Atkinson said. "So there was the two factors, the money as well as the need for professional development of our teachers to implement the standards."

The Republican-led General Assembly last summer voted to add five days to the 180-day calendar to reach a much-discussed goal of increasing student learning by keeping them in classrooms longer. The decision also preserved a state law requiring a 10-week summer vacation.

But legislative action came just weeks before the start of the current academic year, so state school officials waived the requirement for 2011-12.

Atkinson, with the permission of the state Board of Education, last week again granted waivers from next year's extended calendar to 92 of the state's 115 school districts, and 40 out of 100 charter schools.

Other school districts have requests pending, and the rest have until the end of next month to request keeping their school calendars at 180 days.

House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said in December he thought the extra days could be reconsidered when the Legislature reconvenes in May.

Gov. Beverly Perdue said she likes the idea of a longer school calendar, but that lawmakers needed to find a way to pay for those days first.