The balanced calendar controversy has raised its head once again.
Last year, the McDuffie County Board of Education considered changing the school calendar to a balanced calendar or what has been called year-round school.
The traditional calendar won out, but during this month's BOE meeting, parents, teachers and officials discussed a proposal for the 2005-2006 year that is a move towards a balanced calendar. And this time the issue looks to be every bit as controversial as last year's discussions.
"Last year I was able to research what it meant for the community, the school and the children," said Lucy Adams, a parent of three children in the school system who also pens a weekly column for The McDuffie Mirror. Mrs. Adams claimed during the board meeting that research does not show a benefit for students.
This proposal before the board -- which will be voted on in the February meeting -- is similar to last year's proposed calendar. The calendar under consideration for next year has a nine-week summer vacation for students while the current calendar consists of an 11-week summer.
The proposed calendar also consists of a one week break in October, a full week off for Thanksgiving, two weeks off for Christmas, a week-long break at the end of February as well as the traditional spring break.
Last year's proposed balanced calendar contained a two-week break in September and October, a two-week Christmas break, a two-week break in March and April and a summer break of eight weeks.
Education officials claim the balanced calendar approach helps students retain more information over a shorter summer. They also say the breaks help teachers and students avoid burnout. The breaks could also allow some students to do remedial work to catch up instead of waiting until summer school.
"We really like the concept. The teachers feel like they really need a break to avoid burnout," Taliaferro County School Principal Al Arbee told The Mirror last year. Taliaferro County has been on a balanced calendar for several years now.
"The kids just really enjoy it. They are able to retain more, and we don't have to readjust for them to come back, like with an extended summer where they forget a lot of the information. They seem to transition back to school much easier. We've had all positive responses from our parents," he said.
Last year's balanced calendar proposal received support from 60 percent of the faculty, but was dropped because the board said beforehand that it would not consider the change unless 80 percent approved.
In a survey of teachers, 63 percent preferred the calendar that was presented to the board out of five being considered, said McDuffie County Superintendent of Schools Mark Petersen at the BOE planning meeting.
Before the February board meeting, school officials hope to receive public input on the proposed calendar by phone and email. Those wanting to share their opinion can call 595-1918 extension 4057 or email email@example.com.
During the initial discussions at the January meeting, several teachers and parents voiced their apprehension.
"I am concerned about creeping the school calendar farther and farther into the summer," Mrs. Adams said.
Opponents of the idea listed several other reasons they were not in support of the balanced calendar. Some of those were fewer opportunities for summer jobs, potential child care problems, as well as family issues like reworking of divorce agreements and missing family reunions.
Those in support of the idea, though, think it's a discussion that won't soon go away.
"I think we've had an increased number of systems go to a different type calendar, and I think it'll probably continue," said Ed Grisham, former superintendent of McDuffie County Schools during last year's balanced calendar discussion.
"I do think from an instructional standpoint, especially for kids in Pre-Kindergarten through eighth grade, there's a real advantage to doing intensive weeks, then having a little break, then starting back," he said.
· Proposed calendar
(.pdf format, requires Adobe Reader, click here for free download)