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School system puts calendar options up for vote
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Parents of Effingham County students can have their say on next year’s school calendar.

The Effingham County Board of Education is considering five versions of the 2013-14 school calendar. Parents are encouraged to help make the decision by viewing the calendar options online and voting for their top two choices.

“I do like it when we get the community involved, as we have in the past,” Vice Chair Troy Alford said after Superintendent Randy Shearouse presented the calendar proposals to the school board.

“Every year we try to develop the perfect calendar. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a perfect calendar for everyone,” Shearouse said. “Fortunately, we have been able to create calendars with input and not have controversy surrounding the school calendar because people have been involved.”

Board members Vickie Decker and Mose Mock both voiced concern that students would start the school year too early under calendar proposals that have July 31 as the first day. Chairman Lamar Allen added that he prefers the school year to start on a Wednesday rather than a Monday, since the short week helps students and teachers adjust to the start of the school year.

Shearouse and Assistant Superintendent Greg Arnsdorff emphasized that a major factor in determining the calendar is the time frame the state allows for students to take standardized tests. In three of the five calendar options, the CRCT — the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, taken by elementary and middle school students — would be given before spring break.

“All (Georgia school districts) have to live by the same state testing windows,” Arnsdorff said. “We’re looking at what we will need that provides the best opportunity for our students to do the best they can. That’s our only motivating factor.”

Shearouse said the “loudest plea” he has heard from teachers regarding the calendar is to administer the CRCT prior to spring break rather than after students return from their vacation.

“That’s what they want more than anything else,” he said. “I think it’s important to listen to our teachers and what they think is best. They’re the ones out there teaching and they’re the ones who really feel like we don’t want to have spring break and then come back and take the CRCT when kids have been out for a week.”

Shearouse said another request he has received is that elementary school open houses no longer be held on the night before the first day of class. Shearouse and the school board acknowledged that elementary school teachers typically need more time than middle or high school teachers to set up and decorate their classrooms.

“We discussed that with the Superintendent’s Advisory Council, and the elementary school teachers said they like starting mid-week but would gladly go back to a whole week of pre-planning, if they don’t have to have open house the night before school starts,” Shearouse said.

Parents can view the calendar options and fill out a survey on the school district’s Web site, Notable dates on the calendars include:
Version 1 – The first day is July 31. Christmas Break is 11 days. The CRCT is taken before spring break. The last day of school is May 22, prior to Memorial Day.
Version 2 – Same as version 1 until April. The CRCT is before spring break. The last day of school is May 23, before Memorial Day.
Version 3 – Same as versions 1 and 2 until April. The CRCT is after Good Friday and the last day of school is May 23.
Version 4 – The first day is Aug. 19 with a two-day fall break. The CRCT follows spring break and the last day of school is May 28, after Memorial Day.
Version 5 – A modification of version 2 where the first day of school is Aug. 5. The calendar includes a March 17 St. Patrick’s Day holiday. CRCT testing is prior to spring break and the last day of school is May 23.

While the school district wants feedback from parents, Allen suggested that five options are too many to offer.

“Too many choices,” he said, shaking his head.

Parents have until Oct. 31 to submit their input. The school board plans to vote on the 2012-13 academic calendar at its Nov. 7 meeting.

Calendar call
The five 2013-14 school calendar options and survey are posted on the school district’s Web site, at