The board voted on the new school calendar at its regular meeting last meeting last Thursday. The district calendar committee recommended the early release program, which means that on many Friday afternoons, students will leave school at about 1:30 so that teachers can use the rest of the school day to meet together and discuss teaching strategies.
Travis Hamby, the district’s assistant superintendent of personnel and operations, said that the program would not begin until after Labor Day, with the first day release day being Sept. 5. He said this was so the schools would have almost a month to get situated before the new schedule began. The last early release day will be April 3, right before spring break. He said this was meant to give classes time to focus on spring testing. The proposed testing window should be later than in previous years, and is supposed to be May 4 through May 15.
Hamby said that the calendar committee began meeting in March and that the possibility of early release days was one of the first things they discussed. He said that a new provision in the corresponding statute allows the commissioner of education to approve alternative school schedules. By extending each regular school day by five minutes, Trigg County could still exceed the current requirement of 1,062 instructional hours, he said.
House Bill 380, passed in the 2006 General Assembly, required that districts had to add two additional six-hour instructional days, but Hamby said that some Kentucky school districts were using an early release schedule before that and weren’t required to eliminate the program. He said many of these districts experienced gains in student achievement since the time they adopted the program.
“Early release days will provide well-defined professional learning opportunities at the school level to enhance student achievement,” Hamby wrote in a press release. “Teachers will get together to analyze how well teaching strategies and curriculum are working, how well individual students are learning what they need to learn, and to generate ideas on how to improve each student’s performance. This will allow teachers to make adjustments throughout the year to meet the needs of their students.”
Hamby said that this time would have to be specifically devoted to professional development and not regular faculty meetings. Beth Sumner, the assistant superintendent of instruction, said that the time could be used for programs like Thoughtful Education and other district initiatives, as well as discussion of issues like grade transitions.
Trigg County High School Principal Neal Cummins said that when athletes had Friday home games, they would stay at the school from the time other students were released until the game was over. Middle School Principal James Mangels said that since middle school athletic events were usually held on Thursdays, the schedule would not have an effect on home games.
Since the high school now goes by the modified A/B block schedule, with classes alternating every day, there was some concern about what would happen when Fridays were cut short by 90 minutes. He said, though, that they would most likely have all eight classes meet on Friday for 30 minutes each, which he called “skinny days.”
Read the full story on the new school calendar in The Cadiz Record.