Who is involved in the creation of the school calendar?
The Board of Education appoints the School Calendar Committee that has the following representatives on it:
|Group||Number of Representatives|
|Citizens Advisory Council||2|
|Washington County Teachers’ Association||4|
|Educational Support Personnel||2|
- Deputy Superintendent for Instruction (liaison)
- 2 at-large members
- Executive Director for Elementary Education
- Executive Director for Secondary Education
- Public Information Officer
These committee members confer with the groups they represent in order to obtain responses to the “draft” calendar/s and provide further information prior to making its final recommendations to the Board of Education.
When does the School Calendar Committee meet?
The School Calendar Committee meets annually to create the school calendar for each following school year, meeting in the fall and winter months. A recommendation to the Board of Education has been submitted around January or February for the past few years.
Why did the School Calendar Committee create calendars for the next two years rather than one year at a time?
In order to help parents and staff plan for future school calendars, the School Calendar Committee developed and presented school calendars for the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 school years to the Board of Education at its February 1, 2005, meeting. The Board of Education adopted the calendars as proposed by the School Calendar Committee.
What are the underlying reasons that help create the school calendar?
There are a number of reasons that must be considered in developing the school calendar. The most significant reasons that impact the development of the school calendar include the following elements:
- Need for adequate student instructional days
Beginning with the freshman class of 2009, high school students are required to pass the High School Assessments (HSA) in algebra, English 10, government, and biology in addition to completing the number of credits required by the State Department of Education and the Washington County Public Schools.
- High school students take courses that, for the most part, last for one semester (90 student instruction days) or two semesters (180 student instruction days).
- High School Assessments are offered to students at the end of the course. These HSAs are offered at the end of January, the natural end of the first semester of the school year and again in May/June of the school year.
- In creating the school calendar, the school calendar committee has to ensure there are 90 instructional days in each semester to provide students with appropriate learning opportunity.
- Therefore, the school calendar is developed by counting backwards from the HSA testing dates in January of each year to provide 90 instructional days in the first semester.
- Need for equally distributed marking periods throughout the school year
The middle schools and high schools use three marking periods (for a one semester course) or six marking periods (for a two-semester course) over the course of a school year. Elementary schools use four marking periods each school year. The school calendar is created matching these requirements to help parents/guardians plan for their families. Therefore, most school days are designed as student days for all students—pre-kindergarten through grade 12 students.
- Need to ensure all contract requirements for all employees
There are different written agreements for different employee groups which need to be met when creating these school calendars. These include number of work days during the school year, number of work days during the calendar year, and professional development days (for grading, assessments, conferences, and professional learning). Once these are entered into the school calendar, they add more days counting backwards from the January date mentioned in 4.a above.
- Need to provide as many 5 day/week student instruction days as possible
This commitment of the school calendar committee that reflects the focus of both education professionals and students, is designed to ensure as much continuity of instruction as possible to provide the very best learning opportunity for students. There has been a concerted effort to reduce half-days of instruction for students and minimize 3-day weeks for student instruction. In some cases, a marking period has been extended a day or two to maximize these 5-day student instruction weeks.
Even with the information provided in questions 1-4, please explain why students and staff begin school in August of each school year?
The school calendar committee includes all of the following before its recommendations are presented to the Board of Education:
- a calendar with the 90 days needed in the first semester (before the end of January each year when the HSAs are given), then
- the professional development days as required for teaching staff in the schools, and then
- necessary holidays (Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Winter Break, and a few others that vary each year) for students and staff, the start date for students is on or about August 25th each year. This means that students will be in school for approximately 1.5 weeks prior to Labor Day for the foreseeable future, particularly when Labor Day is 5-7 days into the month of September
With the beginning of the 2004-2005 school-year, students began on Wednesday of the week and, therefore, they began with a three-day school week. Many positive comments from staff, students, and parents confirmed that this recommendation was helpful to all in re-adjusting to a new school year.
When do 10 month staff start school in August?
Most 10 month staff members are scheduled to start school four days prior to the start of school for students.
Why are there eight inclement weather days in the school calendar?
The State requires that inclement weather days be included in the school calendar to ensure that there are contingency plans to provide 180 instructional days for students, should weather affect the originally planned school calendar. WCPS has found it to be of help to parents, students, and staff for their own planning to create a calendar that builds these eight days into the calendar and “tentatively” adds them in June. This means that school will end no later than the last day indicated. However, it also means that for every day that is not used of the eight inclement weather days, the last day of school will end that many days earlier. Notices will be circulated once that LAST SCHOOL DAY is finally identified.
Why doesn’t WCPS use some of the scheduled days off in the school calendar so that the school year does not have to be extended into the middle of June?
WCPS has asked parents to plan their family times and vacations around the school calendar that has been created more than a year in advance. WCPS is very appreciative of the cooperation of parents regarding this issue. To turn around and change the calendar in the middle of the year will, and has in the past, caused confusion and disappointment for all concerned. It appears to meet the needs of the families and staff to maintain the calendar as it was developed, including the eight inclement weather days.
Whom should I contact if I have further questions about the school calendar?
Contact can be made with the building principal as the first line of communication. The principal is aware of the nuances of the school calendar and can best explain how the high school schedule affects the middle school and the elementary school. If there is need for further communications, the Office of Public Information can be contacted at 301-766-2996 or through the website www.wcps.k12.md.us.