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The approval of a school calendar is usually a fairly routine vote for the Grady County Board of Education and on Tuesday night a majority of the school board was on board with the proposed calendar for next year, but a vocal minority prompted the tabling of the matter until next month.
Board Chairman Derrick Majors and Board member Gerald Goosby voiced concerns with the 2021-2022 calendar recommended by school superintendent Dr. Kermit Gilliard.
Dr. Gilliard noted at the beginning of the calendar discussion that construction during the summer break at both Eastside Elementary School and Whigham Elementary School were primary factors in developing the calendar for the next school term.
“The contractor needs as much time as we can give them to complete work at both places. The calendar being presented is similar to this year’s calendar. There are only 170 instructional days for students versus the standard 180 days, but we have a waiver from the state which permits us to have less,” the superintendent said.
He also pointed out that teachers are contracted to work 190 days, but under the proposed calendar teachers only have 189 work days.
Dr. Gilliard also pointed out that under the proposed calendar the first day of the school term would be Wednesday, Sept. 1. “We typically start on a Friday or Monday, but in order to squeeze everything in that is the way it works out.”
Chairman Majors asked why the first day for students could not be shifted to Monday, Aug. 30 instead, to give students a full week for the first week of school.
Dr. Gilliard said originally he had planned to reopen schools after Labor Day due to the construction work, but he could not accommodate the needs and not extend the school year into June 2022.
The superintendent says he built in two days for fall break, Friday, Oct. 15 and Monday, Oct. 18, but he said that could be eliminated and shift the start day into August.
Chairman Majors also questioned having school on Monday, Dec. 20 and an early release day for students on Tuesday, Dec. 21. “Could we get that moved somewhere else?” Majors asked.
“We can move it wherever the board would like to move them,” Dr. Gilliard said.
Board member Goosby questioned if administrators and faculty had been involved in the organizing of the calendar. Dr. Gilliard said that due to the construction timeline and the limited possibilities for an alternate schedule he had not presented a calendar or alternate calendars for school system personnel to vote on as has been done in the past.
“I understand it is not easy to put this all together. I’m inclined to let the experts decide where to put things,” board member Jeff Worsham said.
Both board Vice Chairman John White and board member Teresa Gee Hardy also said they were satisfied with the calendar recommended by the superintendent.
“Would it hurt anything to put it off a few days?” Chairman Majors asked.
The superintendent said that the board was under no deadline to adopt a calendar. He said that traditionally the calendar is adopted as early as possible to assist school personnel, parents and guardians with planning for the upcoming school term, but he noted “you can take as long as you would like, we just need to know when you want to start school and we will have to have a calendar by then.”
Board member Worsham said that involving additional people in the process could “cause problems.”
“I just would like to pass it by the administrators and teachers and give them an option,” Goosby said.
“I’m fine either way, but you’ve got a firm start date and they don’t want to go to school into June. It doesn’t leave you a whole lot of choices unless you play with spring break. The only room to play is with spring break or you could cut out fall break. Or, if they want to go into June we will go into June,” Vice Chairman White commented.
Chairman Majors also questioned the week of professional development proposed for the week of July 26 – 30, 2021. Dr. Gilliard explained that in order for new employees to have been employed and eligible for medical insurance coverage they must have been employed and working on August 1, which is the reason the professional development was planned for the last week of July.
Chairman Majors acknowledged that if you have all the information people will realize why the calendar is put together as it is.
Dr. Gilliard said he was certainly not an “expert” in putting together calendars, but that he was capable of counting days. He encouraged the board to give him direction on a calendar that they would approve and he would bring forward a recommendation on that calendar at the March meeting.
Under the current proposal, following professional development July 26-30, 2021, teachers do not report back to work until Monday, Aug. 23 for two days of professional development followed by five days of pre-planning, Wednesday, Aug. 25 through Tuesday, Aug. 31.
Just like the 2020-2021 school calendar, a full week of fall break has been eliminated. Faculty, staff and students would have two days off for fall break on Friday, Oct. 15 and Monday, Oct. 18, if the superintendent’s proposed calendar is adopted. The next break is for Thanksgiving, with schools being closed Wednesday, Nov. 24 through Friday, Nov. 26 for the Thanksgiving break.
The Christmas break for students, under the current proposal, would begin on Tuesday, Dec. 21, which would be an early release day for students and the break for faculty and staff would begin Wednesday, Dec. 22.
A professional development day is proposed for Monday, Jan. 3, 2022 and Tuesday, Jan. 4 would be a teacher work day. Students would return from the Christmas holidays on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022.
Schools would be closed on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022 in observance of the Dr. M.L. King Jr. Day holiday and on Friday, March 11, 2022 as a teacher work day and holiday for students.
Spring break under Gilliard’s calendar would be April 4 – 8, 2022. Then, Friday, May 27, 2022 would be an early release day and the last day of school for students. Memorial Day, Monday, May 30, 2022 would be a school system holiday and teachers would have two work days on May 31 and June 1, 2022 followed by two days of professional development on Thursday and Friday, June 2 and 3, 2022 to close out the 2021-2022 school term.