RFSD committee will look at school calendar options | PostIndependent.com

RFSD committee will look at school calendar options

Judy Haptonstall and Michael Bair
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

We want to thank everyone who took the time to send us feedback regarding the new school calendar possibilities. We appreciate your willingness to participate, and we encourage your continued participation in this process.

Outstanding education is one of the most important foundations for success we can offer our children. Students must be recognized as individual learners with a variety of strengths and challenges. This approach is a far cry from the “factory model” of schools of yesterday where learning was offered, but if it did not “take,” we just moved on. In this outdated model, everyone was expected to learn at the same speed and at the same level. Education and what we know about learning has changed dramatically, but our school calendar has remained basically unchanged for the past 100 years. It’s time to re-examine how we structure time for learning in the 21st century.

Schools in our district have generally followed the traditional school calendar. These past two years, the construction and remodeling of schools have caused the calendar to be shifted somewhat, with a later start date. This past fall, the board and the superintendent assigned a committee of teachers and administrators (through the interest-based bargaining process) the task of developing a new school calendar which focused on optimizing student learning. This committee worked hard to develop six possible calendar scenarios. Those six calendars were posted on the district website in January, and we asked staff and community members for their feedback.

The question of the new calendar garnered a great deal of attention across the three communities in our district. Hundreds of letters, e-mails and comments were received and reviewed. Because of the diversity of opinion regarding how the school year should be structured, the board recommended to the Calendar Committee the following process:

1) The Calendar Committee will create a calendar for the 2008-09 school year that is similar to the traditional calendar.

2) The board will review this calendar for the 2008-09 school year at its March 12 meeting.

3) Taking into consideration the feedback received to date, and the overall goal of optimizing students’ learning, the Calendar Committee will develop pros and cons for possible school calendar features for future years (beyond the 2008-09 school year), including an explanation of the benefits and drawbacks of the different features.

4) The school board will initiate a thorough, two-way conversation with the communities regarding these calendar suggestions.

We want to be sure we take the time we need to do additional research, clearly explain to community members the reasoning behind possible changes, and gather additional ideas, considerations and concerns from community and staff members. Our goal is to decide upon a calendar for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years by this coming December.

Should the length of our school year be more in line with those countries who out-perform American students? Do shorter, more frequent breaks provide a more optimal learning environment than one long break over the summer? How do we accommodate the needs of our business community that depends on high school students to fill summer employment needs? How do we accommodate the needs of our teachers who often have to take summer jobs to be able to live in our very expensive communities?

With the many competing needs and considerations, the answers to these questions are not easy. We will never construct a calendar that satisfies everyone. However, we are committed to listening to everyone’s ideas and concerns, and developing a calendar that best meets the needs of our students, families and communities.

We look forward to a continued dialogue with our communities on this important issue.

Judy Haptonstall is the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 superintendent, and Michael Bair is the school board president.

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