|First semester will end before winter break|
Friday, February 1, 2013
By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer
Franklin County students will begin classes a week earlier next year in order to finish the first semester before winter break.
The school board has approved a new calendar, which will send students back to school on Aug. 12 and will end the first semester on Dec. 20.
"At the high school level, 64 percent of staff opted to end first semester before winter break," FCHS Principal Deborah Decker told the school board.
Going on winter break just prior to end-of-semester testing is not ideal, said Decker, adding that most students do not look at their textbooks while on break.
Decker also said teachers have only a short amount of time to get students refocused and ready for testing once they return from break. It would be more beneficial to end first semester before the break, she added.
Another concern with the current calendar schedule is for high school seniors who begin college in the second semester.
"Some seniors are finishing high school at the end of first semester," said Decker. "Ferrum College, for example, starts their second semester at the beginning of January, and those seniors still have two more weeks of high school requirements to meet before they can begin college classes."
Elementary and middle school staff told board members they favor the current calendar because families are used to the schedule, according to school board member Crystal Naff. Family vacations have been planned and babysitting could also pose an issue for parents.
"This is about educating the kids and graduating them from school, and not about the convenience of other outside things," said board member Bill Brush.
The board approved the calendar for next year, but two school board members, G.B. Washburn and Thad Montgomery, opposed the new calendar.
"I see the advantages (to ending first semester before the winter break), but I've never been in favor of a pre-Labor Day beginning to school," said Washburn. "Starting after Labor Day gives you more harvest time work that you wouldn't get if you started at the beginning of August."
"You can discount it if you want, but summer and farming sometimes are the most valuable experiences a high school student can have," Montgomery added.
On the new calendar, winter break will begin Dec. 23 and end Jan. 3 for students, and two long weekends -- Feb. 14 to 17 and April 17 to 22 -- will replace a week-long spring break.
The last day for students will fall on May 28 and high school graduation will be held on May 31.
The new calendar is subject to a waiver from the state Board of Education to begin school before Labor Day unless bills introduced in this session of the Virginia General Assembly pass. Those bills would give local school boards the authority to set the start of the school year and eliminate the post-Labor Day requirement imposed by the state.