March 27, 2013

Public views sought on school calendar changes

By Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — The Portland school board wants to hear from the public about a set of recommendations that have the potential to significantly alter the school calendar and ultimately the amount of time that students and staff must spend in the public school system.

The School Calendar Steering Committee, which consisted of parents and staff, issued its final school calendar report Tuesday.

Although most of the immediate changes proposed by the committee were described as "modest," other suggestions, such as adopting a later start time for high school students and extending the school day, may take much longer to implement because they will have to be negotiated with school unions.

The full report can be found at www2.portlandschools.org. The board will hold a forum on the recommendations at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Room 250 of Casco Bay High School.

"There are two parts to their recommendations," said Jaimey Caron, chairman of the school board. "The changes . . . for next year's calendar are pretty modest changes. But some of the more substantial changes are beyond our capability for implementing" beginning in September.

Caron said the board wants to hear from the public before it makes changes. If there is no public support, then there is no reason for the board to enter into negotiations with unions.

The initial changes recommended by the steering committee include:

n Instead of releasing students one hour early every Wednesday to allow for professional development, early release would occur twice a month for two hours.

n The first day of school would be on the Tuesday after Labor Day, with professional development days for teachers occurring the previous week. The change would align Portland with other school districts.

Committee members said the school department also should investigate the feasibility of implementing a later morning start time for high school students. The committee said evidence shows that high school-age students are more effective learners if they don't have to start classes early in the day.

The committee also suggested extending the school day to increase instructional and professional development time, saying the change would improve academic achievement.

Community feedback suggested that Portland residents would prefer an extended day over adding days to the school year.

The committee said changes such as shortening the summer break and merging the February and April school vacation weeks into one March break did not gain a lot of community support.

The committee met for six months.
 

 

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:
dhoey@pressherald.com

 

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