Palm Beach County students could see some changes to the school calendar this upcoming school year. One of the biggest modifications the district will consider is making Thanksgiving break a week long, instead of giving students just three days. The proposed calendar also eliminates early release days for students in elementary and middle school and late-start days for students in high school. Five half-days that have been used for teacher training in previous years would become full days for students. Another reason for eliminating half days is the low attendance rates. The school district found that many parents kept their children home, sometimes because the altered schedule disrupted their work schedules. On Oct. 20, 2016, on a typical full day, 3.7 percent of elementary school students were absent, according to school district officials. Although on Oct. 13, which was a half day, 9.3 percent stayed home. District staff say students would get more instructional time by extending the half-days.
“Everyone is agreeable to this, ” said Kathi Gundlach, president of the Classroom Teachers Association. “The half days were not useful because a lot of kids didn’t show up and you couldn’t do a lot academically.”
Since, Thanksgiving break would be extended from three days to a full week, the school year would drop from 180 days to 179 days. Many elementary school parents keep their children home the days before Thanksgiving break. The absentee rate was 8.5 percent on Nov. 22, the day before the break this year, compared with 3.7 percent the previous Tuesday. Superintendent Robert Avossa said the district will save $25,000 in diesel fuel and $150,000 in utilities by closing all of Thanksgiving week.
Despite the changes, the school year would still start and end approximately around the same time as it does currently. The new school year would start Aug. 14 and end May 31, 2018. If hurricane days are needed, they would be added to the end of the school year.
“The calendar keeps all the the traditional fall and spring holidays, and there won’t be any gaps in pay for employees,” said Aeriell Jordan-Robinson, a specialist with the district. The changes are part of a proposed Palm Beach County school calendar that was met favorably by district staff and School Board members on Wednesday. The School Board is scheduled to officially vote on the proposal April 19.