New year, new calendar.
Approved by the USD 290 board of education in February, the 2019-2020 USD 290 school district calendar is now available to the public. For the full calendar, visit usd290.org. According to Ryan Cobbs, USD 290 superintendent, the two biggest changes to next school year’s calendar are the number of student school days and a new early-release-Fridays plan.
“We upped the number of student contact days from 161 to 163, gaining us valuable instructional time,” Cobbs said. “We also added the early release Friday district wide, providing our staff and schools the opportunity to collaborate and work on district and school goals, and initiatives.”
The decision to release students early on Fridays to allow for instructor inservice (collaboration time) comes after years of communication between instructors, administrators and parents.
“Over the course of the last 6 or 7 years we have had multiple renditions of ‘collaboration time,’” Cobbs explained. “At one point we released at noon on Wednesdays, we have had late start for OHS/OMS, and early release for elementary schools. Last year the collaboration time was taken out all together.”
The process has created frustration among parents, for whom childcare considerations present a challenge. This change should be a solution of consistency for the foreseeable future, Cobbs said.
“It seems that each year we make substantial changes and its a piece that creates some frustration with our parents,” Cobbs said. “We needed a common time, one that would allow us to meet as an entire staff, with the depth and breadth of the initiatives taking place currently in our district. It is very difficult for parents to address child care for early release in the middle of the week. However, when discussing this with stakeholders, it became evident that the one time that most were indifferent to was on a Friday, where the weekend could start a little early. Therefore, we chose an early release on Fridays with the intent to keep this schedule in place for the next year or two and create some consistency in our calendar approach.”
The process of crafting a district calendar is long and involved, and begins with stakeholder negotiations.
“The number of days within the calendar are negotiated with our local association and at this point cannot exceed 179 total days,” Cobbs said. “We start with the understanding that we are going to have a calendar that will be 179 contract days for teachers. We also have to keep the actual work day in mind which is currently 8 hrs and 20 minutes.”
From there, administrators work to identify days needed for work ancillary to actual teaching – professional development, parent teacher conferences, and similar activity.
“Once those are decided we look at how many days we have total and try to split them as evenly as possible between 1st semester and 2nd semester to ensure consistency in our semester courses,” Cobbs explained. “This particular calendar went through 4 different iterations before settling on this one. It was created in part with a great deal of input from staff as to their needs, what was best in terms of instructional times for our kids, in-service days, etc.”
The board then has their yearly final say in the calendar adoption.
“The calendar was discussed at multiple board meetings and shared with our board members throughout its creation,” Cobb said. “When the final iteration was developed it was presented to our board and adopted.”