Admin Elects for Early Release Fridays for Proposed 17′-18′ Calendar

Britney Tan, Writer

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The proposed calendar for the 2017-2018 school year, presented at the February 23 Site Based District Meeting, features early release for students at 2 p.m. on the majority of Fridays.

What you hope to achieve is the ultimate use of your time,” Assistant Superintendent Jay McWilliams said. “You want to use the time you have in the day to get the most out of the school day.”

A small committee comprised of Becky Otto, George Bancroft, Karri Eggleston, and several others spent no less than four hours laying out the calendar, losing track of time as they tried to get everyone’s tweaks incorporated. Admin says the new calendar offers many benefits to the school district. An earlier release time for students would mean more time for teachers to begin lesson planning for the upcoming week or to tutor students who need the extra help. On top of that, the district can save money by not having to pay substitutes to fill in for coaches who have to leave, not to mention that the large amount of students gone on various days for athletic reasons, band, or academic UIL will no longer have to worry about losing too much class time.

The thinking behind it is that it’s really budget friendly for us in [all the schools] and it allows our staff at every single grade level [to utilize that] two hour planning on Fridays when the kids go home,” Washington Principal Karri Eggleston said.

By having early release, it’s easier to get ahold of students with Friday Night School, a scenario that Mr. McWilliams describes as having a “captive audience,” meaning that it’s easier to get students to do what they need to do when you already have their attention.

“Once you cut them loose and they go out the door, and they’re supposed to be back at seven, honestly a lot of them don’t even come back,” McWilliams said.

One issue that is presented however, especially for the high school and the Jr. High, is that an early release at 2 o’clock would compromise the last few periods of the day. Having to miss these few classes every Friday with an early release would not be ideal, and Mrs. White is working on Friday scheduling to accommodate the calendar.

“What they’ll do is shorten down the amount of time,” McWilliams said. “They’ll still go to all eight periods, it just won’t be quite as long and we might even take a part of [their] lunch.”

Another problem found is the scheduling of the End of Course Exams for students in high school, which are to take place the week of May 7. However, the State Track meet is May 11.

“That’s not the first time the state [has] done that,” McWilliams said. “There have been kids that go to regionals in track and go to a school in Lubbock, take the test, and come back to the hotel.”

The planning committee for the calendar proposal was also very conscientious of how to get student holidays to match up with most of the parents’ holidays too.

“This way, if a lot of people are off and their kids are off, it matches,” McWilliams said. “We can’t do that exactly on every holiday but you can’t do it on a lot [anyway].”

Texas requires schools to meet 75,600 minutes, a policy that was implemented in the 2016-2017 school year. This new calendar has 76,440 minutes, whereas this school year we have 76,360 minutes.

“As long as you meet 75,600 [minutes], you’re good to go,” McWilliams said.  “And that’s how you get a little bit of flexibility.”

While at a glance, cutting the day short on Fridays seems to contradict the amount of minutes gained. However, the state will overlook the technicality as long as school goes on for a certain amount of hours in a school day.

“That allows us a little flexibility and I think that’s the key word because we can now do things that would fit Big Spring,” McWilliams said. “[We always ask] what’s going to fit our kids and what’s going to help our kids succeed?” 

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Admin Elects for Early Release Fridays for Proposed 17′-18′ Calendar