McDuffie County school officials are looking at making significant schedule changes for the 2004-2005 school year.
Superintendent of Schools Ed Grisham said that county officials are surveying all school faculty members to gauge support for a district-wide switch to a balanced calendar, otherwise known as year-round school. However, a balanced calendar has the same number of school days as the current calendar.
"If there's support for it, then we will present one of those kinds of (balanced) calendars at the January board meeting, then the board will take it under consideration, and it will lay on the table for a month, and then we'll make a final recommendation in February," he said. "If we have 80 percent of the faculty in favor of balanced calendar, then we'll go with that recommendation. If we don't get the 80 percent, then I'll put together (a calendar) that's pretty close to what we've had in the last few years."
Dr. Grisham said that there were several versions of the calendar being discussed, with the most likely scenario having students and faculty in school for nine weeks followed by a two week break.
That pattern would continue all year until summer, when the break would be extended to between six and eight weeks. The scenario would give students and faculty four breaks -- summer, fall, spring and Christmas. Dr. Grisham said officials will try to spend the next few weeks trying to educate various local groups about the new calendar.
"We're trying to make everybody aware of what it means and answer as many questions as we can about it," he said.
Dr. Grisham cited several advantages of having a balanced calendar, thoughts that were echoed by Taliaferro County School Principal Al Arbee, where the balanced calendar has been receiving rave reviews for several years.
"We really like the concept. The teachers feel like they really need a break to avoid burnout," he said. "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."
If McDuffie County were to adopt a balanced calendar, students would attend school for a part of the two-week break for remedial work.
Dr. Grisham said this is designed so students who fall behind won't need to wait until summer school to catch up. Instead, they can catch up gradually and more effectively.
If 80 percent of faculty are in support of the schedule change, the public will have an opportunity to ask questions and comment on the proposed schedule in January after a proposal is submitted.