Calendar 2024 July Month

2 Alachua County schools are switching to year-round. But the calendars need some work

The topic of year-round schools was brought back to the Alachua County School Board during its regular meeting Tuesday, among other routine matters.

July  Calendars -  FREE Printables  Printabulls
July Calendars – FREE Printables Printabulls

ACPS announced the official transition to year-round schools for students at both Metcalfe Elementary and Rawlings Elementary in February this year. This established a year-round school calendar to begin in July and continue through the 2028-29 school year.

A screengrab of the Alachua County School Board during a board meeting on Feb. 6, 2024.

July  calendar  free printable calendar
July calendar free printable calendar

A proposed 2024-25 year-round school calendar was presented Tuesday night for the schools, which are both School Improvement (SI) schools in need of improvement with a low school grade for multiple years.

The pilot year-round school program follows a four-year period where schools are in session for 11 months, as opposed to the traditional 10 months. School would not be in session on Fridays from July 16-Aug. 1 under the proposed calendar.

Printable July  Calendar
Printable July Calendar

The number of school days wouldn’t change, however; students will continue to attend school for 180 days a year and teachers will continue to work a 196-day schedule.

First mention: No more long summers? Some schools in Alachua County may implement year-round instruction

Moving forward: Goodbye, long summers: Two Alachua County schools will have year-round instruction

Board concerns

Board member Leanetta McNealy said concerns have been raised about disruption related to the four-day school week in the summer. She said didn’t feel comfortable voting on the schedule without clarification about the four-day week and said more discussion was needed.

She asked to consider the idea of the two schools to have a five-day week even if the district office isn’t open on Fridays during the summer.

Jacquatte Rolle, ACPS chief of teaching and learning, said the district is working with the Extended Day Enrichment Program (EDEP) to provide camps for students during the Fridays when school isn’t scheduled, as well as for other breaks in the year-round calendar, called intercessions, to ensure students have child care during that time.

McNealy requested an amendment to add the topic to a workshop on April 10, which was approved.

Board member Kay Abbitt agreed and said the district should start out with a five-day school week and take away the non-school Fridays. Despite being a proponent of year-round schools, she said if things aren’t done correctly it could turn the community away from the year-round school model.

“We need some parental input on this and we need to make some changes that don’t even really have to do with the calendar, allowing people to opt in or opt out,” Abbitt said. “It just feels like a race and it’s making me very anxious, the projects that we’re taking on, and we need some more thought put into them.”

Board member Sarah Rockwell also agreed and said she’s received concerns that the four-day summer schedule could set a precedent of having a shorter week, which could negatively affect attendance — something that low-performing schools already struggle with.

Additionally, she said, four of the first five weeks in the proposed calendar are not full five-day weeks.

“When you’re trying to establish routines and procedures at the beginning of the school year, that is just complete chaos,” Rockwell said. “Every time there’s a long weekend it throws the students off more than having a standard weekend.”

Board member Tina Certain questioned when community meetings were held to discuss the change for both schools. Without community and parental feedback, she said, the district is taking away their choice and she can’t vote for the schedule in good conscience.

“We are changing a major program of how students go to school… We have not went and asked the community, or shared this with them, got their feedback,” she said “This is very similar to rezoning… and I think it’s disrespectful to disregard and just tell them what we’re going to do… If we approve this, we have taken away their choice…. The problem that I have is the lack of community engagement with the parents — I don’t like it, and especially because the parents look like me, and that was a big issue that I had before I was elected and that’s still a concern of mine. We would never do a change like this someplace else.”

Certain said an instructional coach she spoke with said they felt “stretched thin” with how many things they have to manage with regular, year-round and IB programs.

Cathy Atria, deputy superintendent, said the district provided faculty and staff with a survey, which received 32 responses. Four said they didn’t like the four-day weeks in July, she said, while the majority said they liked it.

Parent input for Metcalfe is planned for April 18 and, pending board approval of the calendar, the creation of a survey for parents, Jacquatte Rolle said. She said feedback she’d received from principals at both schools is that parents wanted to see what the calendar looked like first — which they couldn’t yet share because it was pending board approval.

Board Chair Diyonne McGraw instructed district staff to share the proposed calendar and gather parental feedback before the next board meeting.

Certain agreed with this but questioned how the district would receive feedback from parents of future children zoned for the schools (such as incoming kindergarteners). Hence her suggestion for community input meetings.

The board voted unanimously to postpone the vote on the proposed year-round calendar, agreeing to discuss it during a workshop on April 10 and bring it back to the agenda on April 16.

The Gainesville Sun previously reported that if a parent does not want their child attending a year-round school, the process to request a zoning exception is available on the district’s Student Assignment website. Similarly, parents of students zoned for other schools could request a zoning exception if they want their child to attend a year-round school.

However, Certain said Tuesday evening that the district doesn’t provide transportation for students under zoning exemptions

Quick recap

House Bill 891 established the Year-round School Pilot Program, which allows the Department of Education (DOE) to help school districts implement a four-year year-round school program for elementary schools. The program must be established in at least one elementary school in the district to study issues, benefits and schedule options for implementing year-round schooling for all students.

As required by the DOE, school districts have a specific application process that includes data related to school enrollment, academic performance, absenteeism, tardiness and how the program will benefit the students in the elementary schools implementing year-round schooling.

The bill requires the commissioner of education to choose five school districts to participate in the program which represent a variety of demographics and include an urban, suburban and rural school district. Alachua County was chosen as one of those districts.

Once the pilot program is finished, the district must provide data to the FLDOE to allow for an assessment of academic and safety benefits of the program, as well as an evaluation of any potential barriers to implementing it.

The commissioner of education must then provide a report — which includes enrollment numbers, an evaluation of potential barriers to implementation, health, academic and safety benefits for students or personnel, and a recommendation regarding adoption of year-round school programs for all students — to the governor, the president of the state Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives.

This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: Calendar a work in progress for Alachua County’s two year-round schools