Q: Who develops the school calendar?
A: A calendar steering committee meets to develop four to six possible calendars for each school year. A full committee representing parents, community members, teachers, principals and other staff then selects two calendars.
Q: How is the school calendar developed?
A: The committee must consider a wide range of factors. They include instructional days, teacher workdays, holidays, annual leave days, makeup days, the testing calendar and overall order and priorities. In addition, school can’t start before Aug. 25 and must end by June 10.
Every calendar change that is made affects schools or the community. Tweaking the calendar or moving days around must be done carefully to avoid unexpected negative consequences. However, not all conflicts can be avoided.
Q: Can I help design the calendar?
A: Yes. Before making a final recommendation to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, the superintendent and the calendar committee encourage parents, community members and employees to participate and provide feedback.
CMS staff and community members can also participate in an online poll during the calendar development process. Two calendars will be posted on the CMS website and you will be able to indicate which you prefer. The poll results and recommendations are given to the superintendent, who presents the options and the poll results to the Board of Education. The Board typically approves a final calendar in the spring. Calendars are approved two years in advance.
Q: When will the online poll be available?
A: The two calendars will be posted on the CMS website in late February or early March and the poll will be taken then.
Q: What has changed in the school calendar?
A: In 2011, state legislators added five days for all school districts in the state, going from 180 instructional days to 185 (and from 1,000 hours of instruction to 1,025). House Bill 200 also specified that districts were to eliminate protected teacher workdays – long a calendar staple when students are not in school but teachers are. Teachers had used these five protected workdays for instructional or administrative tasks. In addition, state lawmakers said local districts must designate two workdays on which teachers may take accumulated vacation.
Q: Did CMS add five instructional days to the 2011-2012 school calendar?
A: No. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education was granted a waiver of five instructional days for this school year, with the stipulation that they be used for teacher workdays on the new Common Core standards.
Q: Does CMS have any rules or restrictions in developing the school calendar?
A: Yes. North Carolina school districts have limited flexibility in setting the district calendar. The North Carolina General Assembly requires that school start on Aug. 25 and end on June 10. We must also designate at least five make-up days in case schools are closed by severe weather.
There are additional state requirements for teacher workdays, holidays, annual leave days and testing days.
Q: Why is the school calendar developed so far in advance?
A: The process is complex. Assembling the annual school calendar is not unlike a puzzle, with many pieces set in place before CMS begins its work. Each calendar is voted on two years in advance so the district, staff and families can plan appropriately.
Q: Can the calendar be revised after it is approved by the Board of Education?
A: Yes, the Board of Education can vote to change it. But CMS cannot change it without Board approval.
Q: Jan. 2, 2012, was a federal holiday. Why did students have to attend school on this day?
North Carolina school calendar law states that the only holiday school districts are required to observe is Veterans Day; the others are discretionary. The calendar committee considered many options, including making Jan. 2 a holiday, teacher workday or annual leave day. Ultimately, the decision was made to recommend to the Board that Jan. 2 be a school day because of the tradeoffs that would have been required.
Students were in school on Jan. 2 because it was a Monday, and they had already been out of school for the two previous weeks. With the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday on Jan. 16 (a Monday) and the need to schedule a teacher workday at the end of the quarter (Monday, Jan. 23), being out of school on Jan. 2 would have resulted in three four-day weeks in January. Also, if we used one of the 10 holidays on Jan. 2, we would have needed to be in school or use an annual leave day one of the other days designated as a holiday: Labor Day, one of the three holidays scheduled around Thanksgiving, Dec. 23, or Dec. 26, the Martin Luther King holiday, Good Friday or Memorial Day.
These tradeoffs show little flexibility districts have in setting calendars. The North Carolina school calendar law requires 185 instructional days and 1,025 hours of instruction. Of course, the Board of Education was granted a waiver of five instructional days this year, with the stipulation that they be used for teacher workdays on the Common Core standards. But we still have a 1,000-hour and 180-day requirement for the current school year.
The North Carolina General Assembly also requires that school start no sooner than Aug. 25 and end no later than June 10, which further limits local flexibility. That gives schools about 215 days in all to include 180 (now 185) instructional days, as well as holidays, teacher workdays, winter and spring breaks and specified makeup days if severe weather closes schools. There are additional state requirements for testing days.
We must comply with state law and Board policy. The Board has made calendar flexibility part of its legislative agenda for several years. Additional flexibility in planning the school calendar would make it easier for us to build the school calendar, and easier to add five more instructional days.
Q: Who should I contact if I have questions about the school calendar?
A: You may email Earnest Winston in the superintendent’s office at firstname.lastname@example.org.