So far, parents are leaning on the Metro Nashville school district to shorten the two-week fall and spring breaks next school year in favor of longer summer breaks for their children, but they’re not necessarily sold on building extra days into the school calendar.
That’s what many of the roughly 30 parents and some teachers told Director of Schools Jesse Register Wednesday during an open mic event at the district’s Central Office to solicit feedback on two proposed configurations of the 2014-15 calendar.
But the district is looking to hear more from parents, said Register, and will deploy a phone poll shortly after students return to school in early August. Because the poll will be performed in house, he said the results should be ready to present to the school board by the time it votes on the calendar.
“It’s been very interesting this year that we’ve had very little pushback during the year for the calendar,” Register told reporters after the meeting, adding he’s looking for more input although he favors adding more school days to the calendar.
“I think we have to reach further (into the school year) than we are now if we’re going to have a system with highly successful children,” Register echoed to parents in defending his plan.
A district calendar committee with a mix of parents, teachers, principals and district staff recommended two balanced calendars for the school board to choose from. One would mirror the district’s current calendar by including one-week of “intersession” before the fall and spring breaks.
Intersession is a week when no official classes are held but schools offer programs such as remedial classes or other activities to students. With last school year as the first offering intersession, 7,500 students out of the 80,000 at MNPS attended the programs. The district originally planned to spend some $7 million on the intersessions, but federal funding supporting the offerings fell through and the district instead spent around $800,000, said Register.
“We were disappointed in the intersession and that’s obvious,” Register said, blaming the shortage of funding.
The second proposal, favored by Register, would do away with the intersessions. However, it would build five additional school days into the calendar, a move he said will help students academically. The total days would grow from 175 to 180, but would include a roughly $20 million price tag.
If approved, the days would only be added if the district could secure funding to pay for it in the spring. However, the district had trouble convincing the mayor and Metro Council this year to fully fund their recent budget request, raising questions as to whether the county government would dish out the extra money in years to come.
Many parents sided with Register in saying the interessions aren’t worth the money or the trouble. Those who liked the program said it needed the district to provide transportation to and from the schools, food for students and more organized planning.
But parents also griped about the short summers, saying their children have a tough time securing summer jobs and they want more family time before the school year starts up again.
While Register is expected to recommend his prefered calendar plan to the school board next month, the district is still seeking feedback via its website. The board will also have the choice to revert to a traditional calendar, although the committee recommended against that move.