SAD 17 calendar creation not so easy

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PARIS — Creating a school calendar can be a challenge.

Just ask the SAD 17 Board of Directors, who on May 7 adopted the 4th revision of the proposed 2018-2019 school year calendar.

While some of the four revisions were minor glitches, such as realizing that graduation had unintentionally been set for a Sunday instead of the traditional Saturday, other revisions, such as the one necessitated by the Oxford Hills Middle School’s decision to revert from a trimester to a semester system next fall, were major.

The Middle School’s decision required the school calendars, that had been created for grades pre-kindergarten through grade 8 and another for grades 9 to 12 to be reconfigured to make them pre-kindergarten through grade 6 and one for grades 7-12.

The calendar changed initially in 2013 when the the middle school split into two campuses and developed a non-traditional, themed trimester system comprised of humanities, visual and performing arts and STEM, when overcrowding and other issues forced the shutdown of portable classrooms and the leasing of a second facility.

But that’s a whole different story.

State statute

The development of the school calendar starts with one  fact. All students are required by Maine statute to have 175 days of classes. How they get there is not always simple.

The calender development must take into account a number of known factors such as holidays, professional days and other variables.

But in the case of SAD 17, it is also impacted by the other school districts that send its students to the Oxford Hills Technical School because state statute requires that SAD 17 to have a calendar that does not put students who attend from a different school “at a disadvantage.”

So, says Superintendent Rick Colpitts, that means the Sad 17 calendar has to align with the school calendars from Buckfield,  Bethel, Dixfield, Rumford, Region 9 and Region 11.

“Otherwise we put a disadvantage to those students who attend our classes,” he said.

Then there’s the snow.

How do school officials plan ahead for the likelihood of snow especially when some parents and school staff are trying to make school vacation plans months in advance.

“We don’t want to have another school year like this one,” Director Bob Jewell said to his fellow directors.

This school year got so bad, that SAD 17 petitioned, and the Education Commissioner approved, its request by SAD 17 to extend the school day by one hour during a two-week period, beginning April 23, to make up some of the nine snow days the district has experienced this year.

Colpitts told the board of directors at its April 2 meeting that despite some hesitancy on his part to implement the pilot program, it would begin following April vacation.

It did and it worked, apparently with no noticeable complaint.

“It didn’t phase the kids at all,” said Hebron Station School Principal Tiffany Karnes.

Parents are being surveyed about how they felt it went and board members should hear those results at the next board meeting on May 21.

Colpitts said the school calendar  has versions that show five built in snow days and 10 built in snow days.

“That’s more than any other district around us,” he said.

It’s done as a sort of “benchmark” he said to help parents have a better idea of what happens if there are a lot of snow days.

So in the end, the directors approved a new school calendar for 2018-2019 school year that will have opening day of August 28, the first day for grade 9 being August 29. First day for grades kindergarten through 7 will be August 29 and the first day for preschool on September 4.

With five snow days the last day of school will be June 14 and with 10 snow days, the last day will be June 21.

The earliest possible last day of school is June 7. Wednesdays will remain as early release days through June 5. Four teacher workshops have been put into the calendar including two before the first day of classes.

If it snows more than 10 days during the next school year?

Well, it’s back to the drawing board.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net