DayeTime: So many school calendars

“I’ll see your 4-day school week and raise you a year-round school.”

That may not have been the way the new school calendars came to be decided, but it sure looks like it could have been.

The 10 Avoyelles School District schools will operate under a 4-day school week, beginning Aug. 13 and ending May 20.

At last word, the new Red River Charter Academy was leaning toward adopting the APSD school calendar, but RRCA officials have not announced their calendar decision. (Latest word: RRCA will have a 4-day week but it will NOT have the APSD calendar. Its school year will start later and end later and have a few other variations.)

Avoyelles Public Charter, another independent public school, went rogue and adopted a 5-day per week “year-round” calendar that begins July 29 and ends May 21.

Parochial schools will have a five-day school week, but there has been no school calendar or calendars released for the 2019-20 school year. There have been rumblings that one or more may go “year-round,” but nothing official yet.

There have already been water cooler debates about the use of the term “year-round.”

This type of schedule is called a “year-round” model. The term really is a misnomer since students don’t go to school all year, but that’s what it’s called. It is also called a “balanced” or “modified” school year.

As I noted in a previous column, there are schools that really are open almost year-round because they have a “row-row-row-your-boat” model, with different groups of kids starting and ending school at different times during the year. It’s like having three schools in one. Two groups are in school while one is out. It is used to alleviate overcrowding in schools.

The “year-round” model is used by about 4 percent of American schools, according to one online source. That may be 10 percent, according to another online source.

That’s the problem with online sources.

A “year-round” schedule retains 175-180 school days but redistributes the days so there is a break between grading periods. The summer break is longer than the other breaks, but shorter than a “traditional” summer vacation.

A possible modified 180-day calendar presented by the National Association for Year-Round Education begins with 45 days on, 15 days off, 30 days on, three off (Thanksgiving) and 15 days on to end the first semester. It has a 15-day winter break.

The second semester begins with 45 days on, 15 off and 45 on with a 30-day summer break.

APCS’ calendar varies slightly from that, but follows the same philosophy.

Avoyelles Charter’s Christmas break is a little longer than two weeks and its Easter/Spring break is divided into two breaks of about a week each with a little over two weeks of school in between.

Charter has 175 days in its school year and an eight-week summer vacation, so its inter-session breaks are two weeks instead of three.

The public school system’s calendar has only 144 school days, but those days will be longer. Students will have just as much instructional time in front of their teacher as they did going 5-days a week with shorter days under the previous "traditional" schedule.

APSD officials have said students will probably have MORE instructional time with a certified teacher because the 4-day week is expected to reduce student and teacher absenteeism.

I am old enough to remember Labor Day to Memorial Day school years and late-August starts when we expanded Thanksgiving from two days to a week. So I sat down and figured out what the “old” calendar would look like.

My baby sister is a teacher in another parish. Actually, she’s about ready to retire. She hates it when I say education comes down to a classroom, a teacher and a student -- and making sure the three meet as often as possible and stay together as long as possible.

Big brothers love to irritate baby sisters -- and I am a master irritator. I am sure this will do the trick.

My “mean old man” calendar runs from Sept. 3 to May 29. It has 185 student attendance days and 19 holidays during the year, with the last one being Memorial Day on May 25.

The problem with this calendar, I have been told, is that it breaks down into 81 days before the Christmas break and leaves 102 days after the Christmas break.

While the two-week Christmas break in this calendar would be a good place to separate the semesters, it isn’t mandatory to do so.

You could come back from Christmas break and finish up the first semester on the Friday before Martin Luther King Day and start the second semester on the Tuesday after that one-day holiday. That adds 10 days to the first semester, putting it around 90 days and leaving approximately 90 days in the second semester.

My calendar allows three days for Thanksgiving, 10 days for Christmas-New Year’s, one day for MLK Day, two days for Mardi Gras, two days for Easter (Good Friday and the following Monday) and Memorial Day, if the school year ends May 29. I have the final days of May in the calendar as a "cushion" for possible snow days or flood days during the school year.

I have heard from a few people who are disappointed that the “year-round” calendar isn’t really a 12-month school year. They thought kids would get out around mid-July and go back to school in mid-August, with short breaks during the year.

That would be more like the rare “extended-year” calendar, which puts students and teachers in classrooms for 200-plus days out of the year.

It’s rare -- less than 1 percent (online sources again) -- for a reason.

Teacher turnover, student burnout and additional operating costs for schools and bus transportation are considered “cons” to this system.

The best thing about that calendar is that it makes mine look liberal by comparison.

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