Calendar takes shape

After two community forums and months of planning, the calendar for the 2020-21 school year in Buffalo is finally taking shape.

During a school board work session on Sept. 23, calendar committee members Jodi Verplancke and Mary McCorkle presented the calendar that will go before the board for final approval on Oct. 14. The calendar, which includes shorter holiday breaks, a later start date and a four-and-a-half day school week, is the board’s best effort to compromise and meet the needs of a wide variety of community members, Verplancke said.

“We can’t make everybody happy and some people will be upset,” Verplancke said. “But for the most part, I think the community will see this as a compromise and know that this committee never lost their focus on students while working on it.”

Under the draft calendar, school will start on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020 and end on Friday, May 28, 2021. This means school will start three days later and end five days earlier than in the current 2019-2020 school year.

“One of the biggest complaints we heard during our community meetings was that the school year started too early in August and went too late into May,” McCorkle said. “It cut into people’s summers. So we shortened some of our holiday breaks to accommodate a longer summer.”

The proposed calendar includes a three-day Thanksgiving break November 25-27, a two-week Christmas break from Dec. 21 to Jan. 1 and a week-long spring break from March 29 to April 2.

The biggest shift comes in the implementation of a four-and-a-half day school week, McCorkle said. The four-and-a-half day week is intended to address parent concerns about students and staff missing Fridays due to activity-related absences. Under the new schedule, all students in the district will be dismissed at 1 p.m. on Fridays.

“It will give the schedule a sense of consistency while also giving flexibility for students and teachers to  be where they need to be on Friday,” McCorkle said.

The district will have two full-day “high impact Fridays” during the school year on March 12 and 26 without any classroom instruction due to state basketball on March 12 and a teacher in-service day on March 26.

Wagner said that district staff has not yet discussed what the schedule on Fridays will look like for the various schools, but noted that the discussion will become a top priority if the school board approves the new calendar in October.

“Those Fridays will likely look different for every building and every age group,” Wagner said. “It will be exciting to see what the staff comes up with.”

Wagner said that implementation of the proposed four-and-a-half day week would not have any effect on the continued implementation of Meadowlark Elementary and Cloud Peak Elementary’s earlier release times that went into effect this year.

McCorkle said the intention is to use the four-and-a-half day calendar – if approved – for both the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years “unless major issues come up.”

While the calendar won’t go to a vote until October, many school board members expressed their support for the new calendar and thanked the calendar committee for their months of hard work.

“You guys worked so hard and handled a lot of controversy and I just think this calendar is a great compromise,” board member Marcy Schueler said.

“This has been a huge labor and you have a great product to show for it,” board member Margo Sabec said.

While he was supportive of the new calendar, board member Dave Belus also said there were some questions to be answered before final board approval.

“Will we have the bus drivers we need to transport kids that early in the afternoon on Fridays?” Belus asked. “What about the drivers that have full-time jobs? And is this schedule something that parents will be able to fit into their lives? I like this idea, but I just want to make sure it will work before final approval.”

The state will set its 2020-21 activities schedules in November, which necessitates that a local calendar be set in October, according to Buffalo High School Activities Director Ryan Mader.

The proposed calendar will be voted on during the Johnson County School Board’s next meeting on Oct. 14 at 6 p.m. Public comment can be made at the meeting.

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