Cobb reconsiders its balanced calendar and shorter summer

Cobb will reconsider its balanced calendar that brings kids back to school in early August. (AP Images.)

Cobb will reconsider its balanced calendar, which brings kids back to school in early August. (AP Images.)

The reason I am on vacation this week is because my children are out of school due to the new Decatur “balanced” calendar, which has students back in class Aug. 1 and out of school for a week in September, in February and in April.

I don’t care for the schedule, which was apparently put in place not to boost student achievement, for which the research is dubious, but to recruit teachers. The conventional wisdom is that teachers like the shorter summers and frequent breaks throughout the year. (A close teacher pal hates the schedule as she can’t attend a standing family reunion in August, and she says the week-long breaks get the students off focus, but I assume she is the exception.)

While this calendar does not work well for me, I am resigned to it.

Not so in Cobb where some parents continue to oppose the adoption of a similar calendar there. One mom sent me a note complaining about the 90-degree plus temperatures when the kids went back this year in August.

She wrote, “The average high in mid Sept. is 81. The cost of air conditioning buildings at 95 degrees or higher, compared to 81 degrees,  must be hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars more. The weeks off in Feb. and Sept., days off before Thanksgiving, and six staff days should be put back as regular school days. The Georgia Legislature should mandate a Sept. 1 start date and a June 1 end date for all state schools. With deficits in the millions of dollars, a calendar that is 175 days from Sept. 1 to June 1 should save money and energy.”

There are also practical challenges to a balanced calendar. Very few camps have sprung up during the September and February breaks so parents either take off from work or find a sitter. And if children are in sports, the games and practices play on, break or no break.  I know people who couldn’t go away this week because their children have sports commitment.

Cobb’s school board is considering a switch back to a traditional calendar and will take up the issue at its Thursday meeting. The district is seeking input  through an online survey.

I don’t count in a Cobb vote and nobody is asking me in Decatur, but my nod would go to the old calendar.

–Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

249 comments Add your comment

justin

February 15th, 2011
5:19 am

Teachers want parents involvement, but parents seem to get involved in wrong things – or they don’t get involved in things that really matters…

Cobb Co. Teacher and Parent

February 15th, 2011
5:42 am

As a teacher, parent of a high school and a middle school student, homeowner and taxpayer in Cobb County – I am in favor of the balanced calendar (option 1) for the next school year. If the county is truly interested in valuable instructional time, fewer teacher and student absences, high teacher morale,high CRCT scores and meeting AYP – it is the only viable option.
First of all we need as much insructional time as possible before the CRCT – this needs to be valuable instructional time – with students and teachers in the classroom. The new calendar has allowed teachers to not have to choose between taking their own children to appointments and being in the classroom (8700 fewer personal days have been taken this year). As a middle school teacher – it is impossible to make appointments before or after school. The new calendar has allowed me to do my job without neglecting my own children, by making appointments during the breaks. We have seen fewer student absences as well.
If a calendar is selected that has us in school until 12/23 ( the only other options) – there will be an incredible amount of student absences, which will impact AYP. Parents WILL take their children out several days early and teachers will be stuck at school with an empty classroom. This will be horrible for teacher morale which has taken enough hits over the last 2 years. Many of us will be unable to spend Christmas with our families. Spending Christmas Eve at Hartsfield or all day long in a car is not the way we want to celebrate the holidays. Please show us some amount of consideration. Cobb County is filled with incredible teachers who constantly sacrifice for their students with our time and resources. I think asking us to give up Christmas with our families is too much.

Pierre

February 15th, 2011
6:07 am

I have taught in another country where the school calender was close to the balanced calender Cobb has now. I have also taught for many years under the traditional US calender–the one where we have to have that long summer break so the kids are available to help with the farm chores.

Obviously I think the balanced calender is a better idea, for the sake of a more productive learning environment. Any teacher can tell you what it’s like teaching burned out, tired and angry kids in the dog days of October and March, when students haven’t had a meaningful break since labor day and President’s Day respectively, and they won’t have one until Thanksgiving and Spring Break. Any teacher can tell you what effect that has on their own energy and enthusiasm levels. Also, most teachers know, and many students will often admit, albeit begrudgingly, that after about six weeks of summer vacation, everyone’s recharged, ready to go, and beginning to grow just a little bit bored. To have a week off in mid-October and February at the cost of two weeks less in the summer is the best, smartest thing to do if you want to advance the quality of learning that takes place ALL year in schools. To my knowledge, no other country has the kind calender we do, especially not those countries whose educational achievements we are increasingly coming to envy as we feel more and more anxious about our own.

Chris Murphy, Atlanta, GA

February 15th, 2011
6:14 am

Good points, but what about the parents who not only can’t afford ‘camps,’ but can’t afford the time off? And starting a *month* early? Teachers have that many “appointments” with their kids??

The arguments about CRCT and AYP- I don’t get those, they are taken in the spring. Besides, they are dumbed-down tests that obviously are not meant to do anything other than highlight gross deficiencies.

It always seemed to me that these calendar changes are yes, for someone’s kids, but not for the school’s kids. I understand some people love having days, weeks off, interspersed throughout the year. But the hardships it creates for those of us in the more common working world are harder to overcome than flight and appointment scheduling.

Cobb Co. Teacher and Parent

February 15th, 2011
6:26 am

AYP is partially based on student attendance. All of the curriculum that is tested on the CRCT must be covered beforre Spring Break this year – testing begins on the Tuesday we return. If CRCT is so useless – why are they debating basing teacher pay on the test results?

Cobb Co. Teacher and Parent

February 15th, 2011
6:27 am

correction – before

Note

February 15th, 2011
6:35 am

I just got a call informing me that my middle schooler will bring home a “packet” to be completed over the break. Justification: too much time lost from the classroom prior to the CRCT. Teachers will be off on holidays, while I’m at home trying to force a 12 year old to complete a 20 page packet. Either they need to be in school, or don’t. Make up your mind Cobb County!

I will also “note” that during the Sept. break, both my high schoolers had practices during that week. We couldn’t go anywhere, and the schools were open, resulting in no cost savings. As a parent, I see that my three children are unable to stay in a routine with constant breaks. And they all have “projects” to work on over the breaks.

ABC

February 15th, 2011
6:42 am

I hate it with a passion. It wrecks HAVOC on personal, educational and financial routines. But I get the sinking feeling I am in the minority. i voted for the “old fashioned” schedule, but I don’t think it’s popular. Teachers love the breaks and East Cobb wealthy parents love the extra breaks where they can go to nice vacations when it’s not so crowded.

Middle Grades Math Teacher

February 15th, 2011
7:02 am

@ Chris Murphy — The number of days off is the same. Parents will not need to pay for more day care costs. In Cherokee county, day cares, YMCA day camps, etc., all offer programs during the weeks we are off. Several parents have commented that it helps their budget to have day care costs spread throughout the year.

Regarding the comment in the letter Maureen quoted, it seems the writer assumes that the air conditioning in the buildings is shut off during the summer. It is not. The custodians and maintenance crews require a/c, not to mention the fact that if a building had 3 months with no air running, the interiors would be ruined.

@ Note — holiday? Really? I’ll be planning lessons and grading papers. No holiday here.

@ABC — there are a lot parents who like having these weeks off. I do think you are in the minority.

catlady

February 15th, 2011
7:17 am

Well, to me the student achievement “reason” rings hollow. I believe if our students were required to MASTER concepts, we would see much greater achievement, even if we were off every other week! They say students forget stuff over the summer? Then they never actually learned it! If you learn to mastery, you still remember it 40 years later!

I am against the “balanced” school year also because it neither takes into account the teachers’ need for certification work, nor the need for the building to be “refreshed”, which cannot happen a week here, a week there. In addition, ANY weeks where we go to school when the weather is so hot is NOT money-saving, and can be outright dangerous!

Finally, the child care woes, which have never been a problem to me (as a teacher and grad student I set my life up around being a mother), I can understand how they could be a terrible problem for some, especially in rural areas like where I live where there are no camps and only one day care center.

Looking at the expenditures overall, plus the human capital costs, I’d vote a big NO on the “balanced” school year.

Cobb Co. Teacher and Parent

February 15th, 2011
7:33 am

The human capital costs have been much lower under the balanced calendar. Teachers have taken 8700 less personal days so far this year – which amounts to a huge savings for the county. I anticipate that number to take a nose dive if we return to the traditional calendar.

Involved Parent

February 15th, 2011
7:34 am

You may be surprised to know that the majority of parents and staff in Cobb are overwhelmingly in favor of the balanced calendar. The Georgians Need Summers group are a very small, vocal minority, but they shouldn’t be portrayed to represent the viewpoint of a majority of parents in Cobb.

The kids are only starting a week earlier than they were starting the previous couple of years. We’re ready for our kids to go back to school come August 1st. Our kids need the breaks throughout the year to avoid burnout. It tremendously reduces absenteeism (for both teachers and students). The reduced teacher absenteeism was tremendous this year (8,700 less days already this year has been reported) saving hundreds of thousands on the cost of substitute teachers and allowing children to have their regular teacher more often. Also, the weeks off help break the cycle of viruses and other illnesses being passed around, while giving time for custodians to completely sanitize classrooms.

The balanced calendar was already voted in for three years and many families have already made plans for next year based on that. The new school board members are completely disregarding the input of the parents in their posts to push their campaign agendas on the district.

oldtimer

February 15th, 2011
7:57 am

For me, the interruption in routine was a big problem. A week off in October, November, two in December equal a lot of time off in the Fall. Then MLK Day a week after we get back……a long week-end in Feb. (many don’t take a whole week) canceled this year. No more breaks till April. The week we comeback testing…not a good schedule. Save the October days for May and if there is no bad weather get out of school a week early!!! My system here in TN also adds time everyday all year to equal 13 snow days which have been used this year.
I liked the more traditional schedule and never had appointment problems for me or my kids.

catlady

February 15th, 2011
7:59 am

So you attribute the fewer teacher sick days to the balanced calendar? I would have to wonder if other, unbalanced systems have had a similar drop-off. I know our school has–due to teachers being afraid for their jobs. So they come to school sick, postpone doctor visits, etc. I would hesitate mightily to say there IS causation there (although there might be). If all other variables were the same, you might more confidently attribute it to the balanced calendar.

Another Involved Parent

February 15th, 2011
8:02 am

I am a working parent in Cobb County. I am also very involved in both my kid’s PTSA’s and schools. I am also in favor of the balanced calendar for many, many reasons. There are lots of arguments on both sides about financial aspects, convenience, vacation plans and all sorts, but bottom line is it MUST be about what is best for the students and for their education. All other factors, need to work around what is best for the kids. They are what is at risk here.

I see how the balanced calendar has helped my kids stay focused on their school work. By having a break, they don’t get burned out, they have a chance to rest and recharge their batteries. Kids don’t need 12 week summers. They lose their retention and the first 6-9 weeks of the school year is wasted on recap. Shorter summers equal less loss of information.

During the breaks, our school closed down and completely disinfected — just as the flu and lice season was getting underway — thus reducing student AND teacher absences. The school disinfected again at Christmas time and will do again next week. After talking to our principal, this close down and disinfection had a dramatic affect on attendances — there were far less absences this year as compared to previous years and when compared to non-balanced calendar schools.

In our area of Cobb County there have been several camps and day care providers offering services during the breaks. In addition, in my neighborhood several mothers, who work at local preschools, offered day care services for a fraction of what day care centers cost. Most had spaces all week and could have taken more kids.

Most of the people I know opposed are opposed because they’re not used to the calendar. I’ve yet to hear any concrete reasons why the balanced calendar is bad for the children.

I speak to far more parents (both working AND nonworking) in favor of the balanced calendar than those opposed. I am a working parent and I know the welfare of the children is what is at stake here. The current calendar was voted in for three years — keep it that way and try it out.

justin

February 15th, 2011
8:06 am

The idea that you have to teach everything in the grade before the CRCT is a MYTH too many teachers (and administrators) have bought into. By trying to cram everything in, you sacrifice students’ learning and understanding. I would hope that the way the CRCT cut scores are constructed account for the fact that testing takes place before the end of the school year.

Cobb County Parent

February 15th, 2011
8:13 am

As a Mom of a Kindergartener, resident and taxpayer in Cobb County- we absolutely love the balanced calendar. Because the local businesses, parks and rec, etc arent offering camps to fill in the weeks off throughout the year- that isn’t even close to a reason to switch back to the traditional calendar. Contact your local city government and complain about your specific area. Cobb County cities do a fantastic job of offering camps and activities. Find a local mom who is trying to earn some extra money by watching kids during the weeklong breaks- if in fact, your childs school schedule is a huge inconvenience to you.
The hot summers aren’t going to be avoided, school or home, it’s still hot outside. I would rather my child be in a learning environment since being outside isn’t possible for most of the day. The air conditioning is still running at the schools, if our kids are there or not.
I was surprised to see that anyone was against the balanced calendar, I haven’t heard one complaint among teachers or parents. Every teacher I have spoken with loves it because they can be on vacation when no one else is- Disney, beaches, etc aren’t nearly as busy during Sept & Feb as the middle of summer.
Regarding the teacher who couldn’t attend the family reunion- yes, she can. It’s called vacation/personal time. The same as anyone with a job would have to do- use their vacation/personal time.

I hope Cobb county listens to the parents & teachers and sticks with the balanced calendar.

EC Mom

February 15th, 2011
8:23 am

I agree with Involved Parent, the balanced calendar actually IS preferred by a lot of parents. I know many who supported it from the start, and many who didn’t think it was a great idea last year, but now love it. Personally, I found myself torn between the Aug 1 start and the Aug 15 start, but decided to vote to keep the balanced calendar (not that I think these surveys for the public really count for much). I wish they had presented a compromise between the two options, like starting Aug 8th and having a 2 day mini fall break and a couple of days before Christmas Eve. I think the quantity of week long breaks with the balanced calendar are overkill, however that is better to me than lengthy stretches with no breaks at all, even if it means starting school on Aug 1.

Not everyone in “wealthy East Cobb” is vacationing during these breaks. I know many who are not, or going to visit family, not taking cruising or skiing. We stayed home during the new September break and will be home next week. The extra time off in September did in fact benefit my children academically. They had some welcomed downtime, my older two worked on optional above and beyond projects, and we had time to reinforce some skills being learned in the classroom. My children had no trouble with the stopping and starting, which was a concern I had about the balanced calendar.

Honestly, I don’t care much either way which calendar is chosen. The number of days kids are in school is not different. Whether ten days of break time is part of summer vacation or taken during the school year is not a big deal for my family. We are able to cope with the school calendar not being exactly what we would like it to be. I wish more people could do the same and the Cobb BOE would move on to more pressing issues.

Philosopher

February 15th, 2011
8:25 am

Announcing that “the overwhelming majority of parents believe…” does not make it a fact. Parents were not fairly asked nor their opinions counted in the decision to move to the unbalanced calendar- neither in Cobb nor in Cherokee. The weeks off have benefitted only teachers…and only some of them. The “daycare” available for parents during these wasted weeks is a travesty. The daycare centers provide a wild freefor-all with not enough staff and nothing constructive, fun, or useful for the kids to do. The alternative, which many parents are forced to take, is to leave the kids alone and bored all day and they either veg with video games or get in trouble. The promises made that it would be a vacation for the kids ended exactly as we thought- with homework and projects all due -not the day after the break, but 2 days after the break…anybody stupid enough to be fooled by that one?!
Summer vacation daycare and YMCA camps offer well-planned,structured activities for kids and have lots of additionalstaff- highschoolers and college kids who need the money and the job on a resume. There is a protracted rest for young kids to grow, the days are long so families can spend time together playing, family reunions can be planned,and companies are not so stressed with all their employees trying to get in a vacation in a nine week period of time. The teachers are too hot to let the children out to play, so they are locked in a classroom, all day and then thrown on to overheated, (some unairconditioned) buses for a 45 minute ride home. The difference in heat and humidity between August first and Labor Day is HUGE! And as for the crap about kids “forgetting” what they learned over a long summer”, if I had a dollar for every time a teacher or parent admonished me that I couldn’t have forgotten it if I’d really learned it, I’d be rich. Stop teaching for a test and teach for learning and that argument can go straight back down the drain where it belongs. No thinking person buys the argument that summer vacation is only for the farmer. Harvesting is done in late summer/early fall, anyway. Summer vacation has too many advantages for kids and their families for it to be plundered by people who have other agendas.

sanitizing?

February 15th, 2011
8:28 am

really? I worked in Special Needs Preschool for several years. Their immune systems are significantly less stable than “typical” children. We continually requested sanitation in the room, as these children were always more at risk to becoming ill. Using the same old dirty mop, with regular cleaners, and spraying tables with watered-down non-antibacterial solutions does NOT qualify as sanitation! Have you actually LOOKED at what they use to sanitize your classrooms? THAT is a poor excuse for extra weeks off added into the school calendar. Could the reason for less flu cases be due to vaccines? Or maybe children are finally being TAUGHT how to keep germs from spreading (how to sneeze, how to wash hands, how to not share foods and drinks?). I wish I had time to respond to the other “Pro” reasons for the “balanced schedule,” but I don’t. This was the issue that really “burst my bubble.”

JLM

February 15th, 2011
8:37 am

Maureen,
One correction to your story. It is not true that camps and other alternatives have not popped up as a result of the schedule. I have two chlidren who attend Cobb County Schools. The YMCA, Sports-A-Rama and several other places have added “Winter Break” camps for Feburary, just as they do for Spring Break (and they had a Fall Break Camp in Sept. last year).
I am a supporter of the balanced calendar. I have noticed less stress and burnout in my kids. The teachers seem to enjoy it and as you said for them it is a recruitment tool.

Lori

February 15th, 2011
8:38 am

I LOVE the balanced calendar. I’m in Henry County and we’ve had it for years. I love the extra breaks during the year. I remember as a kid that miserable amount of time after Christmas break until Spring break. It was 4 months of school straight with no breaks, except we used to get MLK day back then. Spring fever was horrible. But now that is broken up with a break 6 weeks after Christmas. Incidentally, the September and February breaks are fantastic times to take vacations, rather than the busier Spring break week. I can’t see how parents struggle to find child care. Most of the day care centers take school kids that week, so I’ve never had an issue finding a place for my son.

No Teacher Left Behind

February 15th, 2011
8:40 am

Why can’t Georgia’s schools follow the calendar of most of the schools in this country? Get out in June and back after Labor Day? It’s time for Georgia to get on board in the 21st century and become a progressive rather than a regressive state in all aspects.

Bonannie

February 15th, 2011
8:42 am

My 4 children have gone through the Cobb Co. system in 3 different High Schools. Two are currently using the “balanced” calendar which is actually more like UNbalanced. The kids get off track with so many breaks. Curriculum starts and stops and never really goes forward because another break is coming. Throw in some unexpected snow days and things really slide down hill. Besides the heat of August affecting building air conditioning bills there are also higher School-bus AC costs and related heat issues. All those buses running their ACs more while driving in hot summer traffic add heavy exhaust which quickly turns to smog in the dreaded August heat depression. The increase in air pollution exacerbates asthma. Also, it’s too hot for the kids to have recess or do outside activities and don’t even think of them wearing their “new Fall School” clothes…no wonder they want to defy dress codes and wear flip-flops and shorts; so would we! Just think of all the athletes who get heat stroke every year trying to practice… To me it’s a no brainer. Do what’s right for the kids and families and forget teacher recruitment. Surely there are plenty of talented teachers who would be happy to have a job that ran from Sept 7th to June 7th.

Brian30101

February 15th, 2011
8:42 am

For it to truly work, Cobb needs to close the schools during that Sept week, and yes that means even god forbid the football players don’t have mandatory practice. I know that is asking alot of our Jock worshiping culture

Forsyth Parent

February 15th, 2011
9:01 am

Forsyth County seems to be one of the only systems on the north side that are not on a balanced calendar. For some reason our test scores and student attendance don’t seem to be a problem as the “balanced” calendar activist would have you believe. Nor do we have a problem with getting teachers. As a matter of fact the majority of parents had the board redraft next years calendar to include a later start date – Aug 15 – and have kids attend school the first two days of Thanksgiving instead of the calendar we had this year.

Over the last several years parents have overwhelmingly voiced opposition to the balanced calendar because we don’t feel it provides any added benefits to student education. In our community at least, it seems the balanced calendar idea is dead for awhile.

Plus the extra breaks are not all they are cracked up to be. I have family with children in the Cherokee School system and that calendar is nothing but a problem to them. Kids go back to school in early August and somehow are nearly burnt out after only 6 weeks of school? Same in February. The kids just got off a long winter break and then 6 weeks later they get another week off before getting spring break in just 5 weeks later? Seriously you folks actually think that helps with routine and learning retention? Schools elsewhere in the country use the traditional calendar, score better than Georgia students, and don’t have any qualms about learning retention from long summer breaks.

Oh and for the burnout stuff. Kids get weekends off all the time. Not to mention that Labor Day, Columbus Day, Day after Thanksgiving, MLK Day, and Presidents Day give these kids at least a three day weekend and sometimes longer with teacher work days and inclement weather days built in around them.

CobbParent

February 15th, 2011
9:16 am

What I don’t understand is why every single option has to be geared to getting out by the end of May. August is a heck of a lot hotter than June around here, so why not have school run from Labor Day through mid to late June? I have to wonder how I made it through all of those years of grade, middle and high school and then college without having a break every month or so….and I better tell my boss that I need a more “balanced schedule” in my life so I don’t get burned out. I guess I am an abusive parent because when my son complains about school and says he needs a day off I tell him to “suck it up.” Attending school is my child’s “job” and the sooner he learns that life can be hard and unfair and doesn’t get scheduled around his “feelings” the better.

Oh yes, I'm the great pretender......

February 15th, 2011
9:17 am

@Maureen – I don’t count in a Cobb vote and nobody is asking me in Decatur, but my nod would go to the old calendar.

Yeah, I agree, Maureen, but your old and my old don’t mean the same thing. Why, back in my day :) we didn’t start school ’till the day after Labor Day, which worked fine then and there’s no reason it would not work now. We’ve gotten away from “what works” because of governmental interference in our every day lives and until we strongly demand change, it will, sadly, stay the same.

Techmom

February 15th, 2011
9:18 am

Henry Co has had the balanced calendar for years and I’ve argued again and again that parents of younger children benefit from this calendar while those of us with kids in HS do not and by the time those loud pro-parents’ kids are in HS, they’ll be changing their mind. WHY? B/c just as Maureen stated, we don’t really get a break and it makes our summer even shorter. My son played football so July 24th (or thereabout), started daily conditioning workouts; they work out 3-days a week in the gym all summer as it is but these daily work outs are mandatory. Then they go to a 3-day camp, missing Open House. School starts August 1. Two weeks last year they had practice at 6am due to the heat. The previous year they had practice at 8pm in the evening. Then came fall break with a game the first Friday night so we got a 3-day weekend before practice resumed Tues – Thurs b/c we had another game on Friday. The problem is that only a few districts are on a balanced calendar and that doesn’t come into play when they make the schedules.

I’ve missed our family reunion in Michigan every year since the balanced calendar was put into place and two weddings in the past 3 years in August b/c my son was already knee-deep in school and athletics and it’s not worth flying up there for 2 days. I do put my son’s education and activities above my extended family but what I’m getting at is the rest of the nation does not operate like us (and yet they’re not one of the worst school systems in the US).

I’d be thrilled with starting school at least 1 week later & 2 would be even better (I’m not even asking for a Sept start date)! Make Fall break 2 days, Thanksgiving 3 and shave a couple of days off of Christmas. We don’t need a mental break only 6 weeks into the school year! Change the mid-winter break to two long weekends and we’ll still get out before Memorial Day.

JL

February 15th, 2011
9:19 am

There is going to be a side of this calendar issue that is going to be angry when they don’t “win”, no matter what is chosen. It is not like we have a choice of starting in September…we are talking about a few days in the beginning of August. Why not use the “second runner up” from last year if it is so important? Start on August 8th, skip the September break and keep the February one. That would also give a bit more room to end for the holiday break before December 23rd, which is absurd. Who am I kidding – that would actually take some compromise. This is so counterproductive.The Cobb BOE needs to focus on finding a superintendent that is actually worth something, balancing the budget, and trying to retain as much of the staff as possible.

John

February 15th, 2011
9:21 am

I see advantages and disadvantages to both calendars. However, the legislature shouldn’t mandate anything. Every county and every city with an independent school system elects a school board. Those boards are responsive to those local citizens and know the needs of their communities. Each school board should set the calendar for its district and the legislature should stay out of it. I am so tired of hearing the myth–at least in Georgia–that schools have never started before Labor Day. I graduated from a Georgia public high school in 1971, which means i started in the fall of 1967. My mother saved all kibds of things, including the school handbooks that we received at the begionning of every year. The LATEST date we ever started to school was August 22. The earliest date was August 9. That was 40 years ago.

Techmom

February 15th, 2011
9:22 am

The other reason for the early start in August and the finish before Memorial day is the push to finish the first semester BEFORE Christmas break. Most schools on the old calendar come back from Christmas, have a week of class and then finals versus being completely done before the break. I do understand that b/c just like teachers do with fall & Thanksgiving break, they assign work so it’s not ‘really’ a vacation whereas if you take the final & the semester is over, there’s not much else to work on. It’s easy to finish the semester before June 1 if you start it at the beginning of Jan.

td

February 15th, 2011
9:24 am

Another Involved Parent

February 15th, 2011
8:02 am

“I see how the balanced calendar has helped my kids stay focused on their school work. By having a break, they don’t get burned out, they have a chance to rest and recharge their batteries.”

I see the total opposite with my children. It tends to take them a week to get back into a routine every time they have a long break. I have talked to a great deal of teachers on this subject and the majority tell me that, while some of there students come right back from breaks and are ready to go full steam ahead, most of their students struggle for a few days to get back to a routine.

If this is the case then the two added breaks are causing an additional 10 days of the school year to be not as productive as they need to be.

I am not sure if your observations are correct or if mine are but I would really like to see some research on the subject.

td

February 15th, 2011
9:31 am

I would also like to see some research for Murray and Walton counties that has gone to the extended day and 160 day calendar. I am not so sure that this may be the best way to go.

Ernest

February 15th, 2011
9:32 am

I am so tired of hearing the myth–at least in Georgia–that schools have never started before Labor Day

John, thanks for making this point! I started school also in the 60’s and never recall it beginning after Labor Day. Some people must think if you mention something over and over again without being challenged, it becomes the truth.

If there is someone that went to public K-12 in GA that can recall starting after Labor Day, I’d like to know what school district they attended.

Gary

February 15th, 2011
9:34 am

WOW looks like quite a few of you jumped on your menstrual cycles and are going for a ride this morning.

Yep

February 15th, 2011
9:35 am

I do not understand where the teachers union “wants” in this state takes precedence over our children’s actual needs. The real reason behind the “balanced” calendar is that teachers want to avoid feeeling burned out and to have more time with their families. Thr truth of the matter is that having schools open during the dog days of summer cost the taxpayer more in operational costs. When we have interspersed weeks off, it does not increase the retention in my children, and they are very good students. It is almost like the old, “two steps forward, one step back”. These weeks are only interspersed for the teacher’s benefit, nothing more. I personally think that our children retain and progress more through consecutive weeks of study. Is it hard, yes, do they learn more, certainly.

School has become more about teachers and their well-being than that of the students. When are we going to learn that are students are our future and there needs should be put above those that are supposed to be leading them to the goal?

With all of the breaks that we have interspersed into the calendar year, kids never really get into the swing of learning and develop a rhythm for growing their intellect. By golly, the teacher (employee of the state) gets their additional time with their families though. Sacrificing the needs of the many for the wants of the few; that is what the school calendar has turned into.

Posterchild

February 15th, 2011
9:45 am

Maureen, could you please post some sort of disclaimer that we DO NOT HAVE TEACHERS’ UNIONS in Georgia? Thanks.

Hey Teacher

February 15th, 2011
9:47 am

Someone is going to complain no matter what calendar is put into place. Teachers and parents in Fulton are complaining that there aren’t enough breaks because they started later than everyone else. For several systems, this is the first year trying out the “balanced calendar” — a little tough to judge given that we had an extra week off for snow thrown in there. If there hadn’t been those snow days, a week off in February may have been more welcome. As is typical with education, you try something new and instead of tweaking it, you throw the idea out completely. Having week long breaks (especially at Thanksgiving when students would miss those two days anyway) has merit — maybe we just don’t need so many of them?

New to EC Parent

February 15th, 2011
10:10 am

Having all the breaks to account for cleaner class rooms is a lame excuse. I agree with most people that say this is a huge financial burden for the parents who actually work. In this economy and in a this “Right to Work” state, people might lose their jobs because the parent(s) have to take time off work. Which in many working families cheaper than these “camps”. So again the excuse to sanitize the classroom are bogus. That would mean every other county with an “unbalanced” calendar should have more sick students and teachers. Yeah right.
Also after a week off it is hard to get kids focused back on school. The other options that were giving on the survey were utterly ridiculous.

SenioaDawgs

February 15th, 2011
10:26 am

I love the excuses for the balanced calendar. It is good comedy for those of us that live in the real world and are a working families.

Balanced calender?

February 15th, 2011
10:28 am

Now there’s someones PHD if their ever was one. What a spin. All schedling problems would disappear if you went back to quarters rather than semesters.

TinaTeach

February 15th, 2011
10:29 am

The start after Labor Day is actually an old farmering calendar so the kids would be out of school in time to harvest the summer crops and and have time to help plant the fall crops before going back to school. So technically, the North is still on the old calendar while the rest of the country is pushing ahead!

I remember starting school out in Oklahoma as early as August 6th. My very first day of school was August 26, 1988… how do I remember? It was my fifth birthday! The North needs to get with it.

TinaTeach

February 15th, 2011
10:30 am

Sorry meant “farming calendar”

HS Public Teacher

February 15th, 2011
10:34 am

@Maureen -

Please let me clue you in on something….. never, ever, ever are decisions made at the school administration level or at the Board of Education level based on “what teachers want.”

It just doesn’t happen.

If it is a good school, decisions are based on “what is best for the students.” If it is a bad school, it is based on “what makes the administrators job easier.” If it is a bad school system, it is usually “what lines the pockets of the BOE.”

But never, ever are decisions based on “what teachers want.”

oldtimer

February 15th, 2011
10:47 am

I will also add…..Students become very unfocused a few days before the vacation and there are always parents who leave a few days early or come back a few days late to make for a better flight schedule or more travel time.

Balanced Calendar Fan

February 15th, 2011
10:51 am

I love the balanced calendar and so do my children. My oldest is in high school. His schedule is so stressful. He is involved in one extra curricular activity that practices right after school Monday-Thursday. Once he is home he has homework that takes him until 9:30-10 to finish. They never get to see their friends because they are so busy. This creates a high stress environment for these kids. I think we can all agree to the health risks that continued stress can cause. With the breaks built in it gives my child a little down time where he can regroup. Yes, they may have a packet to complete over the break but it is nothing compared to the normal everyday they experience. Someone else also mentioned the decrease in absenteeism. My children have missed less school because they are able to get to their appointments during their days off. Some parents are complaining about teachers and the fact that they shouldn’t need a break. Have these people ever sat in a classroom full of children and try to teach them and try to keep all their attention at the same time. I can only imagine the burn out they must experience. Would you rather have a teacher that has a refreshed outlook in your child’s classroom or one that is completely burnt out. They are under more and more pressure to preform for CRCT while they have an extra 2-3 kids added to their classroom every year. My children are always ready to go back to school after the first 5-6 weeks of break. They get bored and are ready to see their friends again. If a balanced calendar is such a terrible thing so many schools around the country wouldn’t be changing their calendars to systems similar to this. In my area there have been many day care centers that start week long camps during this break. For them not to do this would be a very stupid business move. I am sure the longer this balanced calender is allowed to continue the more we will see places offering care during this off times. I would think that paying for day care throughout the year would be much easier on a working family than having to come up with a large amount during the summer. None the less, not every one is going to be happy or like it. However, we should allow the calendar to at minimum run its course so we have sufficient evidence as to which calendar benefits our students.

oldtimer

February 15th, 2011
10:51 am

My husband, schooled in Alabama went beck to school in August and then they were off early Sept. for cotten picking…….I grew up in St. Louis..Labor Day to Memorial Day…..3 days Thanksgiving, 2 weeks Christmas…..long week-end Easter. A few long week-ends for Parent Teacher conferences and 2 days for teacher meetings…….Worked well!

Monkey Business

February 15th, 2011
10:52 am

Oh Maureen you are wrong that you cannot vote for the Cobb School Calendar. The district has ordered a Monkey Survey (not joking) and you and all your friends in Decatur Georgia or Decatur Alabama or wherever can place your vote in Cobb for our school calendar.

Hey Teacher

February 15th, 2011
10:57 am

@HS Public Teacher — you are so right. I’ve yet to work in a system where teachers were the driving force behind a particular decision. While I am a fan of the balanced calendar, no one asked me how I felt about it one way or another.