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Some systems consider calendar change to be success

While some lawmakers consider requiring schools to start no earlier than late August, some school districts say their "balanced calendars" are popular among students teachers and staff -- and they'd like to keep them.

Several school districts, particularly in the metro Atlanta area, have begun to experiment with the so-called balanced calendar, an approach that spreads school breaks throughout the year in exchange for a shorter summer. For example, schools with a balanced calendar often have time off in October and February, in addition to a week-long break for the Thanksgiving holidays and the traditional Spring break in April.

McDuffie County schools are also considering a balanced calendar.

But districts with that sort of calendar start school in early August -- something that would run afoul of a legislative proposal that would only allow schools to open their doors between the last Monday in August and the Wednesday following Labor Day.

Administrators in that system say their plan is extremely popular.

Cindy Foster, a spokeswoman for the Henry County schools, said 67 percent of parents and almost as many students like the district's new scheduling approach, while 87 percent of the district's staff prefers it.

"We don't get a lot of complaints," Ms. Foster said. "It's been very popular with recruiting new teachers. It's been a big draw for us."

She said the added breaks during the year give families more flexibility when deciding about taking a trip.

"They do have the opportunity to take vacations at other times of the year," Ms. Foster said.

Charles Price, an assistant superintendent for Rockdale County schools, said the system moved to a more balanced calendar this year -- though he called it a "lifestyle calendar" -- in hopes of keeping attendance up by taking away the temptation for families to pull their students out of class for a vacation in the fall, for example. He said a panel of parents, local businesses and others chose the new approach over several others.

"Overwhelmingly, this is the calendar they prefer even over the traditional calendar we had been under," Mr. Price said.

In Clarke County, only two of the county's schools operate under a balanced calendar. The approach hasn't caused many complaints, at least partly because the system allows parents to choose which school their child attends, said spokesman Mike Wooten.

"You hear people who love it, you hear people who don't. ... You never please everybody," he said.

Ms. Foster said some parents gripe about losing summer days and about athletic practices that sometimes carry over into the breaks spread throughout the year.

Similar complaints about the summer can be heard in Rockdale County, Mr. Price said.

"The comments that have been negative have been minimal," he said.

But parent protests help sink a plan to move all of Clarke County's schools to a balanced calendar, Mr. Wooten said.

"There are a lot of parents that are just vehemently opposed to any earlier start date," he said.

The calendar
 • Current revised calendar proposal (.pdf)
 • Revised calendar proposal (.pdf)
 • Calendar initially proposed (.pdf)
(.pdf format, requires Adobe Reader, click here for free download)

Share your opinion
 • Those wanting to share their opinion of this calendar can call 595-1918, extension 4057 or email superintendent@mcduffie.k12.ga.us.

Related stories
 • School board gets traditional calendar
 • Some systems consider calendar change to be success
 • State legislators consider requiring school start date in late August

Previous stories
 • School board to vote on calendar in March
 • School board seeks public input on calendar

Opinion
 • Make your voice heard on calendar

Poll
 • Do you support the calendar being proposed by the McDuffie County Board of Education?



Web posted on Thursday, February 17, 2005











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