MOUNT VERNON — From students and staff to parents and caregivers, hundreds of people are affected by school calendars every day of the school year. The calendars answer questions such as when will the school year start? What holidays do we have off? What are the testing dates? When is the end of the grading period? What are conference dates? When will summer vacation begin? Most also include parent-teacher conference dates and proposed calamity make-up days.
Multiple draft calendars are typically developed by the school superintendent, then submitted to the board of education for approval. Some teacher and staff unions, such as those at Highland, Mount Vernon and Centerburg, have an opportunity to provide input.
“We have a good relationship with the Centerburg Teachers Association,” said Superintendent Dorothy Holden, “and this year we just rolled up our sleeves and worked together on one calendar that the group developed.”
Other associations, East Knox, for example, have no official say in the matter. However, the superintendent does listen to suggestions and comments from community members, teachers, parents and staff.
“Usually we also look at surrounding districts and see what they are doing,” said North Fork’s superintendent, Scott Hartley. “We create the calendars and let the associations give their input. After all of that is done, the board approves them. I am not aware of anything, other than testing dates, mandated by the Ohio Department of Education. We are mandated by some of the federal holidays, however.”
School tradition is one thing the administrators look at when developing a calendar. Highland schools, for example, have traditionally started after Labor Day. East Knox traditionally takes off a couple of extra days at Thanksgiving.
“Our community seems to like the day before Thanksgiving and the Monday after Thanksgiving,” explained Superintendent John Marschhausen.
In the past, Mount Vernon has tried to avoid two-day weeks near holidays, but that depends on which day of the week the holiday falls.
“We usually take two weeks at Christmas if we can still be done by June 3 or June 4,” said Superintendent Steve Short. “Christmas and New Year’s Day are one week apart. If they are both on a Wednesday, do we go two days those weeks?”
Another factor in determining the school calendar is when the first semester ends.
“What we want to try to stay away from,” Short said, “is having semester exams right after you come back from break. We’d like to give the kids a chance to get acclimated back into their classes before exams.”
Spring break is another consideration. Most schools try to have days off around Easter, but at East Knox, spring break is always the first full week in April. Although that often does not match what other schools in the area are doing, Marschhausen believes the consistency from year to year is important.
“Professionally,” he said, “I am not in support of spring break in March. It leaves too many weeks from spring break until the end of the year. March spring breaks work well for colleges and universities that end before Memorial Day. For those of us [schools] that have kids into June, I believe spring break needs to be later.”
Some school calendars are developed just months ahead of the start of the next school year. Some districts, like Mount Vernon, try to give parents a tentative calendar at least a year ahead of time.
“That gives the parents the opportunity to look ahead just in case. For instance, if they have a big trip planned or there is something need to be done, they do have the opportunity to look ahead,” said Short.
East Knox, on the other hand, works from a three-year calendar and is working on its 2012-13 calendar.
“This allows families and teachers to make plans well in advance,” Marschhausen said. “By staying a couple of years ahead, we are able to take the emotion out of the calendar process.”
“The schedule process will be interesting two years from now,” said Short. “The state is planning to eliminate excused calamity days. Usually you don’t want to make calamity days up in June, you want to make them up earlier before testing happens. If they say you have to make up every [calamity] day, what you might be more inclined to do is shorten your school year, if possible, taking less days off here and there. That way you wouldn’t be into June 20 or whatever for make-up days.”