Many local schools have tweaked their calendars the past few years, but Mad River schools is planning a much larger overhaul this fall, starting the year more than three weeks later and going to school fewer days, but making each school day longer.
After operating on an Aug. 14 to May 22 schedule this year, Mad River students will attend school Sept. 8 to May 27 in 2020-21. The Sept. 8 start date will be by far the latest in the area, except for schools that face construction delays on new buildings.
Most Mad River schools will add 30 minutes per day – starting 15 minutes earlier and ending 15 minutes later – to offset the fact that students will attend school 160-162 days, as opposed to 171-175 this year. Stebbins High School’s new 7.5-hour student day appears to be the longest in the area.
Superintendent Chad Wyen said there were several reasons for the switch, including more staff training and preparation time, both before the first day of classes and within the year.
“At all buildings it adds to the flexibility of the schedule. We’ve been kind of tied to what we’ve done forever,” Wyen said. “The reality is, our school district’s composite grade is a “D” and it has been since we went to this report card. … We never did a massive overhaul of how we do business, and it was time to make that change.”
For years, Ohio schools were required to have a 180-day school year, but in fall 2014, the state switched to a minimum number of “hours of instruction,” giving schools more flexibility in how they met that standard.
Schools must be open for a minimum of 910 instructional hours per year for full-day kindergarten through Grade 6; and 1,001 hours for students in Grades 7-12. Bills have been proposed that would force schools to start after Labor Day and end by Memorial Day, but for now state law allows each school district to structure its calendar to its own needs and desires.
Local schools bring students back as early as Aug. 8 for Miamisburg and, in a special case this year, as late as Sept. 23 for Northridge, which was waiting for its new K-12 campus building to be ready.
Northridge Superintendent Dave Jackson echoed Wyen’s thoughts about a later start allowing for better staff training before Day 1.
“We had the opportunity to all get focused and on the same page this year better than ever,” Jackson said. “A con to the late start is that ‘summer slide’ is a big issue for us, and if your summer is longer, that’s a real issue for kids learning.”
Mad River’s annual number of hours of instruction have been on the lower end of area school districts and will remain there. Grades K-8 will be a few hours higher next year (ranging from 960 to 1,047), but Stebbins High School’s 9-12 graders will be 40 hours lower (1,066 hours).
Wyen said part of the high school change is a two-hour early release every Wednesday to allow teachers time for team meetings to analyze teaching strategies and plan ways to get deeper student engagement in educational concepts.
Before the school year starts, school staff will have five full days to prepare – one to prepare their classroom, three for team-, school- and district-level training, plus a day for the year-opening staff meeting plus Day of Giving Back school supply giveaways throughout the district.
“This time will allow for a much smoother transition into the school year for both staff and students,” Wyen said.
On the other side of the calendar set-up is Miamisburg, where Superintendent David Vail said students, staff and the community “have settled into our starting a little earlier than most.”
Vail said starting Aug. 8 allows the district to incorporate a fall break in October and still finish the first semester before Christmas, so students don’t have to take two weeks off, then have exams shortly after they return. He said it also puts more teaching time before spring state tests, rather than after.
Mad River focused on teaching and learning, but also had to plan for the logistical side of the switch. The busing structure stays basically the same, as start times are still staggered by school.
Wyen said the longer summer allows more time for maintenance such as painting classrooms and sealcoating parking lots, as well as ordering new technology or materials that are sometimes mandated by new state budgets passed in June.
For the second half of August and first week of September, fall sports will be in full swing, but school will not be in session. Wyen said given the number of students who rely on school breakfast and lunch, the district will offer breakfast, lunch and a snack for fall athletes. The district is also hoping to expand the existing USDA summer food program that takes the place of school lunch for many other students.
“We are very excited about the changes … for school year 2020-21, which will have an overall positive impact on the students and families we serve,” Wyen said.
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