Charleston school leaders to consider modifying calendar, start summer break earlier | News

Charleston school leaders to consider modifying calendar, start summer break earlier | News

Students across Charleston County School District might start their summer vacations earlier than expected.

School and district leaders will meet with teachers this week to discuss the possibility of changing the academic calendar so that students’ last day of class will fall sooner than the established June 18 end date.

The district has already received requests from parents who would like to end the school year prior to the third week in June, Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait told board members Monday night.

Typically, students start the school year in mid-August and finish up their studies by early June, but a high rate of COVID-19 virus activity in the region this summer caused the district to delay the first day of classes until after Labor Day.

As a result of this delay, the entire academic calendar was also shifted back by two weeks.

Postlewait said she’s also heard from teachers who have expressed a desire for more additional instructional days in the school year prior to the administration of standardized tests, such as end-of-course examinations.

“The later we go in the school year, the more fatigued everyone gets,” Postlewait said. “And something that parents and teachers have said over the years is ‘Why don’t we try and get more instructional days in before you give high stakes tests.’ Because psychologically after high stakes tests are given, it feels as though the mission has been met.”

One possible solution revolves around teacher workdays.

Since students aren’t required to come to school or complete assignments these days, educators use the time to catch up on grading, attend professional development meetings, collaborate with other colleagues and plan future lessons.

The next scheduled teacher workday is Feb. 5.

If district officials get favorable input from teachers, parents and principals, students could complete review work from home that day. While they won’t be in the classroom, this could count as one of the required 180 days of instruction students need each school year, Postlewait said.

If this is feasible, the academic calendar would be adjusted to reflect the change, and students’ last day of class would fall one day sooner.

Postlewait estimated that there are up to five possible days that could be converted into student review time, meaning the earliest students can hope to start their summer vacation is June 11.

The superintendent emphasized that before this plan is implemented it will need to be discussed with teachers and administrators.

“Teachers will have to say whether or not this works for them. If it doesn’t work for teachers, we can’t do it. So they’re going to have to weigh in first,” Postlewait said.

The district does not want to take away any teacher workdays or create additional work for educators, she said.

District officials will speak with educators who serve on the CCSD teacher roundtable committee, Postlewait said. If they express an interest in changing the academic calendar, parent representatives from each school will also be contacted to share their feedback.

Finally, she said, principals will also be able to weigh in on the idea if it is received favorably by parents and educators.

If the district wishes to convert the upcoming Feb. 5 workday to an instructional day for students, board members can expect to vote on the matter during a special-called meeting sometime next week, Postlewait said.

As of Monday night, the district has reported 1,058 cases associated with CCSD schools since September, according to its COVID-19 dashboard. An additional 132 cases have been reported among virtual-only students, and there have been 45 cases among district office employees or other CCSD staff.

During Monday’s meeting, Postlewait informed board members that district officials were in the process of finalizing changes to its COVID-19 notification policy for middle and high school students. 

Earlier this month, the district announced it would update its notification policy for elementary school students after receiving a wave of pushback from parents over the previous protocol. Starting last week, parents were informed every time a student in their child’s class tested positive for COVID-19. Previously, parents were only alerted of a possible exposure if their child was deemed a “close contact.”

Contact Jenna Schiferl at 843-937-5764. Follow her on Twitter at @jennaschif.

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