It doesn't seem that long ago, but it was August 19th when students started attending classes in Frederick County Public Schools for 2013-14. Now, a calendar committee is working on a new academic calendar for the next school year.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Theresa Alban says the Board of Education will hear from the committee during their November 13th meeting. She says the panel has a number of options to consider. "This year, we started a week earlier then usual. And so one of the options will probably be to continue on that time frame. There's a little bit of a buzz right now in the state about should we push things back until after Labor Day," she says.
But the committee will also take into consideration the dates of the new assessment tests, which have not come down from the state. "We may be able to talk about part of the calendar, but not all of the calendar," she says.
Other factors include mandatory number of days to attend school, holidays, testing days, and days the school system must honor as part of its contracts with its employees. "So what sounds like a simple process is actually a very complicated process," says Dr. Alban.
However, citizens can participate in the drafting of the calendar. The Frederick County School System will hold a Twitter Town Hall on October 30th. Citizens can use this social media network to provide their input. But they can still call, send e-mails or even an old-fashioned letter to the school system. (The School System web address is www.fcps.org.)
A final decision on the calendar could come on December 18th.
Dr. Alban says reaction to the early start of classes has been mixed. "There really were several solid weeks of instruction before there were any days off from school," she says. "A lot of the teachers have said the kids came back, they were really able to get further along with the content, make a lot of progress early in the school year. Because, historically, September and early October have been very 'choppy' with a lot of days off for holidays and a lot of other things."
But, Dr. Alban says, there's the other side. "Parents said 'what happened to August. We felt like summer disappeared,'" she said.
Dr. Alban says this change in the start date caught some parents by surprise. "What we've been hearing a lot from the public is 'if you're going to do that, let us know early enough so we can make arrangements and adjust our schedule,'" she said.
In the end, she says, the calendar puts the students first. "We look at the calendar as an instructional tool. And we want to design a calendar that is going to give us the maximum amount of instructional time with our students," says Dr. Alban.