Posted Date: 01/25/2024
Topic: School Calendars
Over the last few years, there seems to be more interest and discussion regarding school calendars. We are currently in the season when public schools begin adopting and sharing their upcoming calendars, which are then compared to other districts in the local area. The Hudson ISD Board of Trustees recently approved the 2024-2025 calendar which was immediately shared with our community stakeholders. A lot of thought must go into the planning of such. This blog topic was chosen to provide a little insight into what goes into this process.
The process begins with a committee comprised of representatives from each of our campuses. These individuals also further represent many special programs and special populations. There are two basic rules: 1) remain within the legal requirements of state law, and 2) make decisions that are best for most students. No calendar is perfect, so many variances exist.
Some of the most popular calendar ideas for our district include: 1) “Don’t start too early and don’t end too late.”; 2) “I like the full week at Thanksgiving.”; 3) “Give me at least two weeks for Christmas.”; 4) “I need a Spring Break week.”; 5) “There are some long stretches…give some minor breaks along the way.”; and 6) “End the first semester before leaving for Christmas.” These are not too much to ask, right? Then let’s get started.
State law requires that all students attend school for instructional purposes for a minimum of 75,600 minutes. What? 😕. Yep, when most of us were young, the law stated that students had to attend a specific number of days, …and that those days had to be at least a certain amount of time long. However, some schools went from 8:00-3:00 while others may have started at 7:45 and ended at 3:45, yielding a significant difference in actual instructional time. So now, we have some legally allowable flexibility on the actual number of days in attendance pending the daily schedule decided by our districts. At Hudson ISD, our current bell schedule allows for 455 minutes of instructional time (defined by the state). From this, we know how many days are minimally required. State law also requires districts to begin no sooner than the fourth Monday in August. (Uh oh! All of my ‘wants’ can’t be met. But wait.) Fortunately, there is some flexibility in this start date if schools have adopted a ‘District of Innovation Plan (DOI)’, which Hudson ISD has.
So, let’s start in August, keep about the same number of days in the first semester as there are in the second semester (important at the secondary level), mark those major holidays, end before Memorial Day, and there you go. Well, there’s a little more to it than that. We need to discuss teacher/staff training that is required by law, determine how the two weeks of Christmas are best situated, and based on many years of experience, choose a few minor breaks based on ‘when everyone has had enough of each other’ 😖. Will students best start a semester at the first of the week or the middle of the week? (The pendulum swings on this minor ‘research’ every few years.) What about an early dismissal prior to the last day of each semester? (That’s fine…just don’t forget to deduct some minutes from our required allotment of time.)
All these ideas go into the ‘big machine’ and there you have it! Teachers have some time allotted prior to the first of school in August, kids come back in the middle of the month which allows for the semester to end prior to Christmas break, three-day (or four-day) weekends (you know, those needed breaks) in September, October, February, and April (some of which coincide with other holidays), a full-week at Thanksgiving, two weeks at Christmas (with a little bonus time; 😉), Spring Break that coincides with that of our local community college (a pretty important factor for the large number of HS students taking college classes), and time left over (banked days)! Yep, we need to consider having enough time to offset any emergency closure that may happen (and usually does).
With a unanimous decision on the proposed calendar by the committee, it now becomes the decision of our school board. Once approved, let’s get it out like a ‘hot potato’ so parents don’t plan that family cruise too soon. Hopefully, this gives you a little better idea without diving too deep into some other details. Then I start counting…waiting for the first person to ask, “Have you considered a 4-day week?”. Well…this may need to be the topic of next month’s blog.
Have a great day. May God bless you all.
Donny Webb, Superintendent