By Melissa Blankenship
Lessons learned during this year’s inclement weather will be applied to planning for next year’s school calendar, according to Eminence Independent Schools Superintendent Buddy Berry.
“Eminence Schools will be better off in the future due to the snow days we’ve had this year,” Berry said at the district’s most recent school board meeting.
At that meeting, board members approved this year’s revised calendar, which removed any remaining early release days, rescheduled professional development days for teachers, incorporated President’s Day as a makeup day and added March 17-20 as makeup days. The last day for students will be Thursday, May 29, with graduation that Friday, May 30. Closing day for teachers will be Saturday, May 31. June 2-6 will be work days for classified staff and made available for teachers to complete any unearned professional development hours and classified staff will also work that week.
“Graduation will stay the same,” Berry said. “That was a big concern for our parents and students.”
Eminence’s typical calendar provides 390 minutes of instruction each day, 30 minutes more than they are required. In this way, the district “banks” 2.5 instructional hours each week, which allows it to more than fulfill its obligation to provide the required number of 6-hour instructional days over the course of the school year. This comes in handy when trying to makeup snow days.
“We are able to create our calendar where we can absorb some of those days for our kids, but the staff will still have to work their contracted number of days,” Berry said.
Taking a closer look at the calendar and really diving into the state’s regulations for instructional days led Berry to make a proposal to the calendar committee for the 2014-15 calendar.
“It is in our best interest as a district to be more proactive in an effort to maximize our calendar,” Berry told the board.
Berry’s first recommendation was to do away with early release days.
“It’s just not conducive to learning,” Berry said. “And staff and parents are overwhelmingly in support of this.”
Next, Berry looked at professional development days, or PD days, for teachers. There are a few professional development days on next year’s calendar and teachers will be provided an opportunity to utilize flexible PD days to reach their required 24 hours. For example, a teacher might spend two hours after school one day to participate in approved professional development curriculum. He or she would then document the activity, seek approval by the principal and that time would be included in their annual PD hours.
The plan effectively trades early release days for flexible professional development days.
“Instead of sending kids home early one day, you keep staff late,” Berry said.
There would also be five PD days built onto the end of the school year that classified staff will be required to work, which would also facilitate making up any potential snow days and accumulating any needed professional development hours.
Currently in next year’s calendar the last day for students is Wednesday, May 20. The first two makeup days next year would be May 21 and 22, which wouldn’t change graduation. Then additional makeup days would be scheduled during the two-week spring break.
This year’s snow days led Berry to create a policy for EHS students that travel to Bellarmine for classes. On at least one occasion, EIS had canceled school, while Bellarmine remained in session, meaning the students taking college classes there would be counted as absent, miss deadlines to turn in assignments or potentially miss an exam. Berry said the district will choose to “err on the side of caution.”
“If Eminence is out and Bellarmine is in, we’ll look at JCPS,” Berry said. “If JCPS thinks it’s safe to send students to school, we’ll say it’s safe to send our kids, too.
“If Eminence is out and Bellarmine is in, and JCPS is out, then we won’t go,” Berry added.
Revised calendars are available on the district’s website at www.eminence.kyschools.us.