The Warren County Board of Education, during its March 10 meeting, voted unanimously to give Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mary Young the authority to proceed in the legislative process which would allow Warren County Schools to move to a single district calendar.
Current state law specifies that the school year will begin no earlier than the Monday closest to Aug. 26 and end by the Friday closest to June 11. School systems must request waivers before variations can be made.
The school system currently utilizes three calendars: a year-round calendar for Mariam Boyd Elementary School and Northside K-8 School that runs from late July to late June; a semester calendar for Warren County Middle School, Warren County High School and Warren Early College High School that begins the first week of August and ends around Memorial Day; and a traditional calendar for Vaughan Elementary School and Warren New Tech High School that follows the regulations set by the General Assembly.
A calendar survey
The school system recently conducted a survey which closed at the end of February to allow members of the public to show which calendar they preferred.
During last week’s board meeting, Young reported that 698 people completed the survey. Of those, 48.57 percent were parents of students attending Warren County schools, 34.24 percent were school system staff members, 7.74 percent were students and 9.46 percent were community members.
She also noted that 30.95 percent of survey respondents did not have children in Warren County schools. A breakdown of the responding parents revealed percentages with children attending the following schools: Northside K-8 School, 21.06 percent; Warren County Middle School, 16.62 percent; Mariam Boyd Elementary School, 14.76; Warren County High School, 13.18 percent; Vaughan Elementary School, 10.74 percent; Warren Early College High School, 8.17 percent; Warren New Tech High School, 7.88 percent.
Young told the board that 69.48 percent of survey participants were in favor of a semester calendar running from August to late May. A total of 22.49 percent of survey participants were opposed.
Of parents with children attending Mariam Boyd and Northside, 68.32 percent were in favor of a calendar running
from August to late May. Among parents with children attending Vaughan and Warren New Tech, 76.5 percent were in favor of moving to a calendar running from August to late May.
Young said that she considered the decision to move to a single calendar for the district to ensure that the calendar met the needs of local students and the community.
Why consider a single calendar?
During the Superintendent Business, Government and Media Advisory Committee on Feb. 27, Young said that moving to a single calendar would reduce expenses in the school district’s budget in part by allowing Warren County Schools to be more efficient with staff personnel and not duplicate work, such as in transportation, child food and nutrition, and administration.
She added that a school system financial wellness audit, which she discussed during the March 10 meeting, revealed such conclusions as a lack of adequate funds to meet every need under the current three-calendar system.
Young said that an example of the extra expense caused by having three calendars can be found in what happens when some schools, such as Warren New Tech High School, are in session when others are on break. She said that because Warren New Tech doesn’t have a full kitchen as other schools do, child nutrition staff members have to come in to work on days they otherwise would have off to prepare meals, and, then, those meals must be transported to New Tech.
Young explained that having schools ending the year on different dates can cause inefficiencies in distributing school personnel to ensure that each school has the staff they need to finish out the school year.
She said that the financial wellness audit revealed that because of the three-calendar system, Warren County Schools currently employs between 20 and 25 extra personnel resulting in $2 million in expenses. Having one calendar, Young added, would allow certain personnel to be shared among schools and, therefore, would eliminate expenses related to duplicate work.
While reducing budget expenses, having a single calendar would allow the school system to offer more art programs, such as choral and band, she added.
Young also noted that using one calendar would allow students at Warren New Tech to test before the holiday break like students at Warren County High School and Warren Early College High School do now. She said that testing after the holiday break is often more difficult for students because materials are not as fresh in their minds.
Using three calendars also causes problems in providing professional development for teachers, especially for those new to the school system, Young said. She explained that Warren County Schools devotes time at the start of the school year for professional development to help teachers prepare for the new year. However, that time is scheduled when all educators have returned to their schools.
Young said that, ideally, professional development would be provided before teachers begin the school year. However, waiting until all educators are back at school means that teachers at year-round schools would have been in class for several weeks before they could receive this beginning-of-the-year assistance. She said that operating on a single calendar would allow all teachers to complete professional development at the same time.
Young noted that using one calendar would offer additional advantages: Families with students attending multiple schools would have the same schedule, and Vaughan Elementary School would be on the same calendar as Mariam Boyd Elementary School and Northside K-8 School.
Moving toward a single calendar
The board’s decision to authorize Young to begin the legislative process of moving toward a single calendar would allow for the drafting of a letter requesting calendar waiver flexibility due to budget constraints and drafting a school calendar for the 2020-21 academic year that aligns with the school calendar law option.
After this process is complete, Young will be able to draft a semester calendar for board of education approval for the 2020-21 school year.
Board member Barbara Brayboy said that following a single calendar would improve student attendance because it would eliminate situations in which older students would need to miss school in order to care for younger siblings.
In response to board questions, Young clarified that the school system would follow the semester calendar for all schools, eliminating the year-round and traditional calendar formats in Warren County.
Board member Victoria Lehman expressed concern that some parents could be upset because having the choice for their children to attend year-round schools would be eliminated.
Young replied that a majority of parents of students at the year-round schools, 68.32 percent, were in favor of changing the school calendar to run from August to late May.