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Teacher, parent votes differ on calendar
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Given three options for the Effingham County School System’s 2014-15 academic calendar, teachers voted one way and parents went another.

The big difference is that parents voted for the calendar with spring break following Easter, while teachers opted for having spring break prior to the weekend of Good Friday and Easter.

The solution, Superintendent Randy Shearouse said, could be to create a “hybrid version” of the calendar parents chose and the one teachers selected.

“I think we can look at some ways we can mesh the two together to make it work,” Shearouse said. “It’s only a few little places you’d have to tweak it to make a difference.”

Shearouse would like a decision soon on the 2014-15 calendar, preferably at the Dec. 11 Effingham County Board of Education meeting. That target date gives school officials ample time to revise the calendar, Shearouse said.

“People start planning their family vacations around the school calendar,” he said. “Folks are already calling and asking what our choice is going to be.”

Parents were asked to vote online for their calendar of choice, and Shearouse reported that 967 people participated. The top choice for nearly half of them (48 percent) was the one calendar with spring break falling after Easter.

The two calendars with spring break before Easter were the preferred options among 10 of Effingham’s 13 schools. Only three schools — Blandford Elementary, Ebenezer Middle and South Effingham High — voted for the same calendar the majority of parents did.

Board member Mose Mock asked Shearouse why he thought the schools and the public voted so differently. Shearouse said a key consideration among teachers is the length of time between spring break and the administering of the Georgia Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT).

Nine days must be set aside for the CRCT, and the state requires it to be given between March 30 and May 1. The two calendars preferred by the schools have spring break March 28-April 5 (Easter Sunday), with students returning to class April 6 and beginning the CRCT on April 14.

In the top calendar choice among parents, spring break begins Good Friday and continues through the week after Easter. Students would return April 13 and begin the CRCT on April 15.

“I think the public and the teachers are on the same page, because most teachers would like to have Good Friday and the week after (for spring break),” Shearouse said. “But they look at the testing and they say, ‘Well, we don’t have but two or three days before they would take the CRCT,’ so that would be the concern with that.”

Other than when spring break is scheduled, the three calendar options had only slight differences. Classes will begin Aug. 4 or 7 and end May 21, 22 or 27.

All three calendars include a week off for Thanksgiving (Nov. 22-28) and two weeks at Christmas (Dec. 20-Jan. 4). Labor Day is a holiday in all three calendars but Veterans Day in only two of them.

Two of the calendars had four-day weekends for fall break (Oct. 17-20) and winter break (Feb. 13-16). The third option extended both of those breaks by an additional day.