Quincy 2014-15 school calendar's early Wednesday release plan draws skepticism

Posted: Apr. 24, 2014 11:07 am Updated: May. 8, 2014 2:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

The Quincy School Board has tentatively adopted a school calendar for the 2014-15 academic year, but a proposed change could get tossed out.

A newly formed Calendar Committee comprising school administrators and teachers presented the calendar at the board's meeting Wednesday night at the Early Childhood and Family Center. One change calls for eliminating four half-day training sessions for teachers and replacing them with a 30-minute early release every Wednesday in all schools to provide professional development opportunities for staff.

Early release on Wednesdays is currently done at Quincy High School and Quincy Junior High School for "professional learning communities" that are meant to foster collaborative learning among teachers and staff.

Under the new proposal, every school would let students out 30 minutes early on Wednesdays, including those in kindergarten through sixth grades.

"We may want to put some further thought into that," School Board President Stephanie Erwin said after hearing the suggestion Wednesday. Erwin said she is concerned about the potential impact on the guardians of elementary-age children who not only would have to pick up their kids at a different time once each week, but they also might have to make alternate day care arrangements.

"I don't know" if that's such a good idea, Erwin told committee members who spoke at Wednesday's meeting.

"We discussed those same issues as well," said Julie Stratman, director of elementary education, who serves on the committee. "We just want consistency."

The board tentatively approved the school calendar for the early release idea, which will be discussed further at a special board meeting to be held in early May.

The calendar calls for teachers to report to work Aug. 18-19 for teacher institutes, with the first full day of student attendance on Wednesday, Aug. 20. The last day of school would be June 1, 2015.

Dave Boster, director of human resources, said the committee is recommending the district adopt the ability to have "late starts" for school beginning next year. This would allow school to begin two hours later than normal without having to call off school for the entire day because of icy conditions on winter mornings.

"That would have saved us four days this year if we had it in place," Boster said.

The calendar includes three days to be used for make-up days for snow if needed: April 2 (the Thursday before Good Friday), April 6 (the Monday after Easter Sunday) and June 2.

This past winter, the district received the state's permission to declare three lost school days as "act of God" days. The district won't have to make up those days but will still get its usual allotment of state aid despite the missed time.

Superintendent Steve Cobb announced Wednesday that even though students won't have to make up the lost class time, teachers are required to make up the missed work days in coming weeks through special arrangements being made at each school.