01/09/13 — Board eyes calendar for school year

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Board eyes calendar for school year

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 9, 2013 1:46 PM

The debate about school calendars versus state tourism continued at Monday night's school board meeting.

The board approved the draft for the 2013-14 district calendar, but not unanimously. Board member Eddie Radford was the sole vote of opposition.

The problem, he said, is with the way semesters are divided, resulting in exams being delayed until after the Christmas holidays.

"We still end up splitting exams, which I think hurts the kids and hurts the test scores," he said, suggesting that legislators should take a look at the problem.

For the most part, school year start and end dates are dictated at the state level, limiting how officials can parcel out the two semesters.

Olivia Pierce, executive director of information/technology services with the district, explained that new legislation takes effect July 1 and the state has imposed parameters for district calendars.

Major points of Senate Bill 187, which rewrites a portion of calendar law, say the start date for schools can be no earlier than the Monday closest to Aug. 26 and wrap up the school year no later than the Friday closest to June 11. The exceptions would be a weather-related calendar waiver, or year-round, charter school or innovative high school.

Further, the new Legislature requires districts have either a minimum of 185 days or 1,025 hours of instruction, Mrs. Pierce said. The Wayne County calendar recommendation was to maintain a 180-day schedule and 1,025 hours of instruction.

Some board members expressed concern over the constraints.

"We're really more about the calendar, and they're (legislators) worried about the travel and tourism," Radford said.

"I guess we need to speak with our state legislators," board member Chris West said. "It's a problem. The tourism dollar has taken precedence over educating our children."

He said he had heard of other school boards having similar opinions, and suggested if enough districts sent a resolution to Raleigh collectively, maybe the urging would be effective.

Radford offered a sports analogy to support his claim about the importance of timely testing.

He said, as a former coach, he would never have warmed up a pitcher in the first inning and waited until the ninth inning to put him into the game.

While others on the board agreed, Board Chairman John Grantham questioned how much students have actually learned if they can forget it over the two-week Christmas break.

Grantham also asked about military-related holidays being on the calendar for next year, referencing a controversy that arose in 2008 when the district failed to include Memorial Day as a holiday for students and staff.

"We're required by state law to have Veterans Day as a holiday and we do have Memorial Day as a holiday," Mrs. Pierce replied, pointing out the latter, which falls on May 26, will be designated a day off.

The board also approved three contracts totaling over $250,000 for school projects.

Capital outlay funds will be used to pay Doug Middleton Association Inc. for the $109,077 project to renovate auditorium seating at Dillard Middle School, and DARI for the $130,763 project at the school to remove floor tile and apply ceiling texture.

Handi-House & Carolina Carports will be paid $12,767 from local funds for a livestock housing facility at Southern Wayne High School. The project includes a 30-by-41-foot barn garage, roll-up and walk-in doors, windows and installation.