Summertime getting shorter for students

School board challenged with with earlier start date

The Culpeper County School Board held a work session Monday.

As school board members shared feedback they received from their constituencies, Cedar Mountain Representative Betsy Smith observed that it is human nature that often people who are against a topic speak up more than those in favor of an issue.

And the current issue is the 2015-2016 school district calendar.

In the proposed 2015-2016 school calendar, the first day of school for students would be Monday, August 10. Board Chairman Robert Houck (West Fairfax) reminded the board members that the starting date is only eight calendar days earlier than the approved 2014-2015 school year, not eight school days.

New to the board representing the Jefferson District, Michelle North said responses she has received were 50-50 on the approval of the newly proposed calendar.

Smith said mostly people were making negative comments to her, complaining that it was too hot to have sports in early August; sports would be going on after graduation or when school was out It would also cause an increase in the use of utilities to cool the buildings. Stevensburg Representative Elizabeth Hutchins said that some comments she received also were that the sports schedule conflicted with graduation dates and it was too hot in August for sports. She did indicate that she had a few favorable responses.

Weighing in on the academic angle, Robert Beard (East Fairfax) noted that many teachers are passionate about the change for the betterment of instruction.

Culpeper County High School Principal Jeff Dietz made positive comments about the proposed calendar changes.

“We can make it work. From an instructional point of view, the new calendar would be the best plan,” said Dietz. In regard to sports and performance arts events, he continued, “It’s just logistics for the rest.”

North suggested that the two calendars in question be posted on the Culpeper County Public Schools webpage (www.culpeperschools.org) for comparison, along with the rationale for the change. Although there are a few considerations for the change, the main thrust for change is to complete study and testing requirements before the December holiday break. This would allow for better subject-matter retention for high school students for testing requirements.

The proposed 2015-2016 schedule also provides some make-up days in both the second and fourth marking periods, rather than just at the end of the year.

Some schools in surrounding districts are also adopting earlier start dates, but Rappahannock County is reverting to a later start date after one year of change.

Hutchins stated she would like to know how school districts are handling calendar changes.