Citizen concern over a possible change in school calendar drew a crowd to the regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting Monday night. On the agenda was a presentation of a balanced versus a traditional calendar.
Assistant Superintendent Pat Blanc explained that the school calendar committee, made up of parents, teachers and administrators, has been researching the differences and possible benefits of a balanced or year-round school calendar compared to the traditional calendar the school system currently follows.
Two sides were presented:one that saw few pros and one that said the pros to a year-round calender do exist. Presenting the findings in video format were two members of the committee.
The opposition to a balanced calender indicated that there are only four schools in the state of West Virginia that operate on such a calendar and those schools have demographics that make them totally incompatible with Jefferson as far as comparison of the issue. It was stated that the change in calendar is unlikely to boost academics and may not be worth all of the disruption with such a major change.
Other members of the committee found that studies showed that learning was increased and retention was better when students did not face such a long summer break.
Keri Mahoney, head teacher at South Jefferson Elementary School who served on the committee, said that the calender includes the same 180 days either way.
"Research shows a positive impact to student learning," she said. She went on to say that currently teachers spend one to two months reviewing material at the start of the school year after a long summer break. With the balanced year, that review time could be cut back significantly.
Attendees at the meeting were unsure of whether the possible change could come about as early as next year. Superintendent Susan Wall indicated that surveys will be sent out with report cards this week to each student in the county. Parents are asked to complete and return the surveys. Surveys will also be given to community members who do not have children in the school system. Students themselves will be surveyed in grades 3-12 as well as all staff members.
Wall said that the surveys should be returned by mid-November and the school calendar does not have to be in to Charleston officials until February or March. When asked if that was a possible time line, Board of Education members indicated that it would likely take longer to evaluate all of the effects such a change could have county-wide.
Questions arising from only a few members of the community compared to all who would be affected included everything from whether buses would be air conditioned to what the change could potentially do to day care centers, fairs, camps and other summertime activities and events.
A proposed calendar for a balanced year showed school beginning Aug. 2 with weeklong breaks in October and November as well as extended breaks at the Christmas holiday and in March and April. School would end June 10. The traditional calendar has the start of school at Aug. 22 with basically the same breaks as the calendars have had in the past including a three-month time period off from June 4 to the following August.
Board president Peter Dougherty said, "The survey needs to first show that there is an interest in this before we look further at what happens then."
Board member Mark Osbourn agreed saying, "Most places that change take a year or two the change."
Dougherty concluded by saying, "I am in favor of change if it's a good change. Right now, we are only looking for information."