TEA suggests extending 20-21 school year

The Texas Education Agency recently released the PowerPoint presentation “Adjusting Your School Calendar for COVID-19 Response” on its website, citing that the 2020-2021 school year will likely be disrupted and that school districts should proactively take precautions.

The presentation highlights three options for school districts looking to minimize the instructional and learning losses that are expected statewide due to the unexpected COVID-19 disruptions during the current school year. It also notes that there may be high rates of absenteeism while school is in regular session, with some students being consistently physically absent from school.

The idea is that extending the school calendar anticipates these kinds of scenarios, thus increasing educational opportunities for students, but  maintains all changes and options must be considered and adopted by each school board with the specific needs of their students in mind.

Considerations listed in the proposal include a traditional academic calendar with additional intersession weeks attached to current breaks like Thanksgiving, winter and spring breaks. This option gives COVID interruption and remediation opportunities for those students who need it. 

TEA says that this will benefit by providing larger breaks in winter months in case of COVID-19 resurgence, ability to use breaks as remediation days if not needed for COVID-19, and flexible use of intercessions gives greater capacity for mid-year learning gap adjustments.

Also highlighted in the proposal are calendar redesign options with additional days.

Option 1 is called “Optional Summer Learning,” with the purpose of summer enrichment. Think “180-day traditional calendar and up to 30 days for something additional.”

Option 2 is called an “Intersessional Calendar,” with the purpose of targeted remediation. This would be the traditional 180 day calendar, but spaced out over the full year, with intermittent breaks for targeted remediation with a subset of students.

Option 3 is a “Full Year Redesign”, with the purpose of rethinking the school day. Each district has their own options for doing so, but the idea would be a seven by six weeks calendar with daily schedule changes “to increase teacher planning time and student play.”

The proposal states that each district has the freedom to adjust the example plans as needed and gives the next steps as to how districts can move forward to put these plans in place. 

Though Superintendent Steve Brownlee is retiring this year, he spoke with The Rosebud News, citing his personal opinions on the idea.

“It does provide teachers and students more of a mental break throughout the year,” he said.  “Particularly, that stretch after Labor Day until Thanksgiving can seem like a very long period of time.”

The long-time educator reminded reporters that the way the school year is arranged currently was initially based around when children would need to be in the fields to pick crops for their families.

 The tourism industry is reliant on the summer months to carry business throughout the year, so extending the school year may have negative impacts as well. 

“The main negative element for year-round schooling has always been the inconvenience to parents,” he said. 

“Most families are fixed into a routine of five-day a week job covering 40 or more hours,” Brownlee continued. “It will take realigning their routine in order to accommodate year-round schooling or provide day care for their kids.”

It is not yet known how Rosebud-Lott ISD will move forward with the idea, but the decision will be up to the Rosebud-Lott ISD Board or Directors and will have input from Dr. Jim Rosebrock, RLISD’s incoming superintendent.

The full proposal can be found at this link: https://tea.texas.gov/sites/default/files/Adjusting_School_Calendars.pptx

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