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Committee continue to debate school calendar


Staff Writer

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When it comes to the Washington County School calendar for 2017-2018, right now there are two options.

First there’s the version that was emailed to the school system’s teachers but was voted down by five of the nine Washington County Board of Education members during the Jan. 5 school board meeting. When the calendar that contains an August 1 start date and a six-day fall break wasn’t approved, David Hammond suggested a calendar containing a later school-start date be created as another option.

“We have a lot of teenagers that work to provide their own school supplies and even help their families out financially,” Hammond said. “We have several people that usually take a vacation the first week of August due to their company shutdown. I think we could find a happy medium. I don’t think it’s going to be a start date of Aug. 14 like some parents would like. I’m just trying to find some common ground here.”

Then there’s also the option created at the Jan. 12 calendar committee meeting in response to the board’s request; The new version includes an Aug. 7 start date and a four-day fall break. Both versions list May 23 as the last day of school. However, neither version of the calendar is official just yet.

At the calendar committee meeting was Mary Beth Dellinger, Todd Ganger, LaDawn Hudgins, Leisa Lusk, Valerie Moore, William Flanary and Karla Kyte.

The Washington County Education Association sent the original calendar version to teachers via email. Hudgins said most teachers were concerned with holiday breaks such as fall break and the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Lusk said she got about a 50 percent response from teachers and most of them were in approval of the calendar. Kyte said giving these teachers another option would go along with requests from the school board and from teachers.

“It would go along with what these ladies (from WCEA) have said,” Kyte said. “You either start early and have a fall break or you don’t have a full-week fall break.”

The committee also had certain state-mandated requirements to keep in mind; schools are required to have 150 instructional days prior to state testing and around 90 instructional days per semester for block schedules. In addition to inservice days, parent teacher conferences, and fall, winter and spring breaks, the committee had much to discuss while creating the second calendar option.

If days needed for a later start date were simply tacked onto the end of the school year on May 23, graduation would have to be moved. Therefore, the committee opted to find other school days within the calendar in order to keep the May 19 graduation date on both calendars.

This second version also contains a four-day fall break which includes an in-service day on Friday October 6—the first day of the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough. At the calendar committee meeting, board member Todd Ganger was concerned attendance would drop during the two-day school week following fall break.

The two versions of the calendar will be sent out and voted upon by Washington County School teachers before any final decisions are made.

A calendar committee meeting will be held on Thursday Jan. 19 at 4:30 p.m. at the central office on 405 West College Street in Jonesborough. The Board of Education will also vote on the calendar again during the Thursday Feb. 2 meeting.