Calhoun schools could lose fall break
by Laura Johnson
Mar 16, 2011 | 5322 views |  6 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The fate of fall break is at stake in Calhoun County schools.

It could be lost in the next academic year if school officials so choose, and the Calhoun County School Board may decide on the matter as early as next week. The board will discuss the academic calendar at a work session Monday and may vote on it at a regularly scheduled meeting on March 24.

Whether or not fall break is lost in Calhoun County likely hinges on decisions that will be made in Montgomery. Calhoun County Superintendent Joe Dyar said if Senate Bill 51 and House Bill 150 pass, the school system likely won’t be able to work a fall break into its schedule.

View three proposed calendars for the 2011-12 Calhoun County school year

The Senate bill would reduce the number of school days for the next academic year from 180 to 175. The House bill would prevent public schools in Alabama from beginning school before August 22 and would also require schools to close before Memorial Day.

The board is reviewing three drafts of a proposed calendar for the next academic year. One makes a provision for a full week for fall break, another sets aside three days for fall break and a third calendar eliminates fall break.

It would be nearly impossible to schedule a week for fall break, while complying with the requirements outlined in the proposed legislation and meeting instructional requirements already in place, Dyar said. The instructional requirements Dyar refers to set standards for how much time should be spent on each subject in a nine-week period.

Dyar opposes reducing instructional days, not just because it threatens fall break, but also because it would eliminate paid days for teachers and support staff. Alabama educators are already facing the possibility of increased medical and retirement costs, he said.

“When you do all that, you’re balancing the budget on the backs of working people,” Dyar said.

The fate of fall break will also affect when students go back to school for the next academic year. If the bills fail and the board selects the calendar that allots time for a full week of fall break, students will begin school on August 8. If the Senate bill passes and the board selects the calendar with no days scheduled for fall break, students will start school on August 15. Students will also begin school on August 15 if the board adopts a calendar with just three days for fall break.

More than just legislative acts have the potential to influence the system’s calendar for the next academic year. A recommendation by the Alabama State Department of Education to delay the first day of school until August 15 into account is also weighing on the board’s decision.

Dyar said both the bill and the state recommendation are being considered to encourage tourism on the Gulf coast and to bolster tax revenues for the school system.

Passage of those legislative acts and compliance with the state recommendation, not only have the potential to squeeze out fall break, but are also limiting the number of weather days on the calendar. Each of the proposed calendars for the next academic year, like the current academic year, make a provision for just one weather day.

Attempts to include one or two more weather days would push the start date back to the first week in August -- which would not comply with the state board’s recommendation.

“It’s just going to be frowned upon if we back up to August 1,” Dyar said.

Contact staff writer Laura Johnson at 256-235-3544.

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