Dickinson Public School's 2020-2021 calendar includes a later start date and more early release days, but two additional perks that were considered— a two-week-long Christmas break and a weeklong spring break — did not make the grade.
Both breaks were built into a base calendar for the upcoming school year's calendar by the district. Then the calendar was given to a committee charged with seeking input from faculty and staff of their prospective schools and making recommendations based on that input and their own discussion.
According to Superintendent Shon Hocker, the calendar committee consisted of 15 members, including representatives from each school, parents, hourly workers and administrators. The committee provided recommendations to the district last week.
"Every recommendation that came from that committee to make changes onto the calendar were supported and represented here. That was the calendar that was presented to the school board for approval," Hocker told the school board during its meeting Monday night.
During the same meeting, a group of teachers led by Shawna Knipp, a teacher from Heart River Elementary, addressed the board about their feelings on the calendar.
"There are a lot of us that are not in agreement with the calendar that you will be presented tonight," Knipp told the school board.
She said that teachers she had spoken to were not in favor of coming to school on Aug.18, a Tuesday, for professional development, but not starting to teach until the following week.
"We were wondering if there was any way that a vote could be taken on the two - the draft calendar that came out, and the one the calendar committee also proposed … That way more voices would be heard instead of just the calendar committee," Knipp said.
Hocker had some concerns about such a task.
"I just want to say that the risk and concern that I would have with going back out with some opinion poll would be that you may end up with 600 different opinions from our staff. Building a calendar is very challenging," he said.
He also explained to the school board why the 18th was a fixed date.
"That was driven by the necessity to bring in a trainer that we have already contracted for from Marzano to further our conversations with High Reliability Schools. That is scheduled for the 18th … Those bookings are two years out. It’s really challenging to schedule those in the first place. When this committee met, they recognized that this Tuesday the 18th still needed to be a staff workday," Hocker said.
It is possible, however, for the school to start that week.
"You can see if we started school on that Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday like we initially had, you’re starting school three or four days earlier, so trying to identify where those three or four days might come off the calendar, that’s what initially led us to the two week vacation at Christmas … and then the extra days for spring break," Hocker explained.
Brent Seaks, president of the school board, pointed out that hourly workers would not be paid during the two week Christmas break.
Hocker said that was mentioned in the calendar committee meeting.
"That was in part why we were certainly supportive of doing away with the two-week Christmas break because we’ve heard from classified (hourly) folks that that can be challenging for some," he said. "We absolutely appreciate our classified folk and don’t want to put them in any undue hardships.The month of December is always hard on any hourly employee because of Christmas and a week or so at least of school off. "
The school board voted unanimously to approve the calendar recommended to them by the calendar committee.
The calendar is similar to the one for the 2019-2020 school year, but will include seven early release days instead of four so the faculty can have additional time for professional development and work with their professional learning community.
The upcoming school year will also begin later, on Aug. 26 compared to the previous school year, which began Aug. 22. The last day of school will be May 26.