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School board adopts calendar
Online comments taken into consideration
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Effingham County schools will start on Aug. 6 for the 2008-09 school year and students will get out May 22 as the school board approved the proposed calendar Thursday night.

Students also will get a treat by getting out for St. Patrick’s Day in 2009.

School officials posted the calendar on the system’s Web site and invited public comments. By their tally, the proposed calendar had 149 votes for and 130 against.

“We have been discussing this for quite a while,” BoE Chairwoman Vera Jones said of the calendar.

There also were suggestions about the start of the school and concerns on the heat in early August.

“I’m glad they did comment, and we did make some changes based on those comments,” Superintendent Randy Shearouse said. “When we started school, it was hot. We need to better our process on getting them out. When they’re standing there (waiting on the bus), that’s when it gets hot.”

School officials allowed students to bring water onto buses during the August heat wave and are exploring other ways of alleviating the temperatures inside the buses, including installing fans and using tinted windows.

“That seemed to help a lot,” Shearouse said of allowing students to bring water onto the buses.

Shearouse said a committee will look at speeding the loading of students onto buses in the afternoon.

Of the 283 online respondents to the open house question, 247 favored the two-day version. Middle and high school open houses will be held Aug. 3, a Sunday, from 2-5 p.m. and open house for elementary schools will be held the following evening.

“We had a lot of concerns from the elementary teachers having open house the night before school started,” Shearouse said. “We had parents express concern about getting off work two nights in a row.”

There will be a two-day fall break Oct. 16-17, and Thanksgiving break will start on Nov. 26. Christmas break for students will begin Dec. 19, which is a planning day for teachers, and they will return to class Jan. 5. That was included to accommodate high school teachers to get ready for the change in semesters.

The school system will observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January and based on the 231 votes for it, the system also will be out of school for President’s Day. St. Patrick’s Day — traditionally a day off in Chatham County schools — is the only scheduled holiday in March.

“We tried to have school on St. Patrick’s Day, but so many kids missed,” Shearouse said.

Spring break will begin on Good Friday and run through April 17. Shearouse said there were concerns about having two spring breaks, but the state added some days to the time when schools had to administer the Criterion Referenced Competency Tests. The CRCTs will be given March 30-April 9.

“That allows us to complete the CRCTs before they have spring break,” Shearouse said.

The calendar also includes three planning days for teachers and school will end May 22. The 2008-09 school year starts on a Wednesday, which is also new for the system.

“We believe we can get everybody into the swing of going back to school,” Shearouse said. “We feel like that’s going to be a positive change.”

2008-09 School calendar highlights
Aug. 3 — Middle/high school open house
Aug. 4 — Elementary school open house
Aug. 6 — First day of school
Oct. 16-17 — Fall break
Nov. 26-30 — Thanksgiving
Dec. 19-Jan. 4 — Christmas (students)
Feb. 16 — President’s Day holiday
March 17 — St. Patrick’s Day holiday
April 10-19 — Easter/spring break
May 22 — Last day of school