Flagler County schools’ 13,000 students and their parents will have their full Thanksgiving week back as a holiday next fall, as opposed to the truncated, two-days-on, three days off schedule they had last November. The trade-off: school will start at its earliest date in recent memory: on Aug. 10, a Wednesday, with faculty having to report on Aug. 3, a full month before Labor Day. The school year will end with a half-day on May 26, the day before Memorial Day.
The Flagler County School Board hasn’t formally approved the calendar, but agreed Tuesday evening that the proposed schedule is the calendar it will approve at its first meeting in January. It will actually approve a two-year calendar that reflects the same approach. The board had wanted an earlier start date for a while, and tried to enact it for the current year, but the process was complicated by the Legislature’s delay in settling on a new start date. The Flagler board ended up approving a current-year calendar it did not want, with a split Thanksgiving week.
Tuesday’s discussion was smoother, with the hard work accomplished by an administrative calendar committee. The calendar is in large part dictated by the state’s standardized testing schedule. The earlier start date allows students to have two to three more weeks to prepare for exams, and not to have a long break just before taking major tests.
“The calendar committee would like to implement the earlier start dates which would allow students to complete the first semester prior to winter break, and the school year would end prior to Memorial Day,” Jim Wood, a member of the committee and the district’s human resources director, said. “We have the assessment schedule for the 2015-16 school year, and that’s been implemented into this calendar, but we don’t have the test assessments for the 2017-18 school year.”
“I’m glad that all the work you did the year before is now going to be able to be put into place,” board member Janet McDonald said. “I am confident that the testing schedule will work in the following year.”
Only two questions still hung over the calendar adoption: whether the board would adopt a two-year calendar, as it prefers, and whether faculty and other employees were agreeable to starting the school year so early without pay until almost a month later.
The restoration of Thanksgiving week off is important “for families and faculty and staff, everybody I think appreciated that time, so it looks great,” Colleen Conklin, who chairs the board, said. “I don’t really foresee any major issues or changes. I know this is just a workshop, the item will be coming to us, but how much discussion has everyone had in regards to proposing a two-year calendar, given that that is usually a preference?”
Superintendent Jacob Oliva was resistant to the two-year adoption. “I know the board has a desire to put forth a two-year calendar, and I think that’s a little bit of our apprehension, to put that forward for action” Oliva said. “We will be definitely bringing the 16-15 calendar up for action at the January meeting, and the feedback for the 17-18 is there is some apprehension toward that without the assessments’ dates being finalized to adopt and approve a calendar that may need to be amended.”
“I would support a two-year calendar with the idea if there are major changes you can always amend it,” Conklin said.
The only change the committee expects, if there is to be a change, is the week of spring break in the 17-18 school year, because that’s when the district looks at the testing window, and try not to have spring break before testing begins. “That’s something we can have an action on with that condition,” McDonald said.
So it appears that the district will settle on a two-year calendar. (See both proposals below.)
The pay schedule was another issue. “It’s a long time to ask people to go” without pay, Conklin said.
Oliva said that historically, the pay period would be “consistent with the previous years, and the notion is pretty much that as long as we communicate it well in advance that going that three weeks without the first pay, the first pay will be Aug. 26 even though teachers start Aug. 3, historically that’s about when they got the first pay anyways, so after this year, it starts leveling out. It was pretty much agreed upon that this should work.”
Oliva said he has both teachers’ and service workers’ unions’ support for this arrangement, even though in subsequent years the pay period will not necessarily move up.