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School board picks Aug. 5 to start 2013-14
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Effingham County students will begin the 2013-14 school year on Aug. 5, have several breaks throughout the year, take the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test prior to spring break and end the year on May 23.

The Effingham County Board of Education unanimously approved the 2013-14 calendar Wednesday after offering five options for teachers and parents to vote on last month.

The version adopted by the school board was the overwhelming choice in the community’s online vote, with 943 of the 1,435 votes cast (66 percent). The second-most popular choice received only 283 votes.

In addition, the teachers and staffs in the school district made the same calendar option their top choice.

“We really want to go with what folks feel is the best calendar, both our teachers and the community,” said Superintendent Randy Shearouse. “So it’s nice when it works out that way where it’s very clear what the choice is.”

In 2013-14, students will have a two-week break for Christmas and New Year’s (Dec. 23-Jan. 3) and one week off for Thanksgiving (Nov. 25-29) and spring break (April 21-25). Students also will be out of school on Good Friday (April 18) prior to spring break.

Winter break will be a four-day weekend Feb. 14-17. Fall break was initially scheduled for two days, but the school board shortened it to one day (Oct. 21) in order to add Veterans Day (Nov. 11) as a school holiday.

“I think it sends a message to our veterans that we do respect that,” board member Mose Mock said.

The Aug. 5 first day of classes is slightly later than this year’s Aug.1 start and the July 31 start in three of the five calendar proposals. Those three calendar versions combined received only 14 percent of the community’s vote.

“I think people do like us to start in August. They don’t like the July start,” Shearouse said. “They really like as late a start as we could get.”

The biggest challenge in assembling the academic calendar, according to Shearouse, is the time frame the state allows for students to take standardized tests. The state gives school districts a window of March 31-May 2 to administer the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test to elementary and middle school students, and the testing covers nine days.

Shearouse said a number of teachers asked for the CRCT to be administered before spring break rather than after students return from their vacation. Next year, Effingham students will take the CRCT April 7-11 and 14-17.

“If you didn’t have to worry about testing, there may not be a reason to start (the school year) earlier,” Shearouse said. “But pretty much every system throughout the state of Georgia is starting sometime in August.”