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An early start for the 2012-13 school year

POSTED: January 2, 2012 4:25 p.m.

Effingham schools will start the 2012-13 year Aug. 1, with week-long breaks spaced throughout the year.

The Effingham County Board of Education asked teachers and parents to review three calendar options for the coming school term and vote online for the one they liked best.

The BoE approved the “enhanced breaks” calendar, which was most popular among stakeholders, at their Dec. 14 meeting.

“I’ve heard from Bulloch County, (and) I’ve heard from Screven County, (which) are on this calendar,” said Superintendent Randy Shearouse. “They say that student and teacher attendance is much better by having breaks throughout. Let’s hope that is the case, because that also saves the district money when folks come to work.”

This calendar, while stretching the year from August to the end of May, gives five sizable breaks for students throughout the year and 10 planning days for teachers dotted throughout.

“You can schedule doctor’s appointments throughout the year; you have all those breaks to do that,” Shearouse said. “So for students, if they can just be able to make it a little bit longer, then they’ll have a break where they can take a few days off.”

Some of the comments in online responses questioned starting school during so early in August because of the intense summer heat. They asked for a later start and a June end of the year.  To that, the superintendent noted the average temperature in Effingham in August and June is 90 degrees.

“I would normally be one to tell you that it is a lot hotter in August than it is in June,” Shearouse said. “I would normally say that, and I would say that’s the truth. But if you look at the average temperature in June and in August, they’re both 90. The nighttime temperatures are a little hotter in August than they are in June. But the average daytime (temperature) is 90.

“I looked at what we spend on electricity because it’s always, ‘that’s a way you can save money and not have to burn and have a high electric bill,’” he added. “Last August, electric bill was $196,343 for the system and June’s bill was $160,141. But let’s remember, school was out.”

Students will have six days off following an early release day in mid-October for fall break, a full week off for Thanksgiving holidays and two full weeks off at Christmas, starting Dec. 21, which will be a planning day for teachers.

A winter break in mid-February gives students an early release day on a Wednesday, with students returning the following Tuesday.
Spring break will be a full week for students, with students returning the Monday after Easter, and there will be two weeks between spring break and Criterion Referenced Competency Testing (CRCT).

The calendar gives students 180 instruction days, and with the high schools moving to the seven-period day class schedule, testing days will be reduced in high schools. The last day of school will be May 23.

There were two other calendar options. One was the “accelerated year” calendar, which was the least popular, providing minimum breaks. It would have started school the last week in August. This option would run the first semester past Christmas, and spring break would have been less than a week long. The last day of school would have been May 31.

The third option was the “cluster calendar,” which was most similar to the current 2011-12 calendar. It would group teacher planning days during holidays in the event that the school year would be reduced because of budget constraints. The first semester would have ended prior to Christmas, and spring break would have been the week before Easter, with school ending May 22.

While not all the online comments lauded the calendars, many praised the system for including parents, teachers and the public in the decision.

“I will say that a lot of folks did comment about being thankful that they had a voice in voting for the calendar,” said Shearouse. “We had a lot of folks say that whichever one won, they were just glad they had an opportunity to vote.”

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