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Draft 2017-18 school calendar includes early-release days for all students for staff development

School officials are considering shortening the school day twice a month next year for all students to allow teachers to meet for professional development.

The draft 2017-18 school calendar, presented to the School Board for a first reading on Jan. 10, 2017, includes 17 days when students in all schools would be dismissed approximately one hour early. The days are scheduled for the first and third Wednesdays of each month, except for February and April, months that include the traditional Presidents Day and Patriots Day weeklong vacations.

Teachers would meet for two hours after students leave school on the early release days.

The calendar was drafted over three months by a committee made up of School Board members, parents, teachers and administrators, said Interim Superintendent Howard Colter. The draft schedule meets requirements for schools sending students to Portland Arts and Technology High School, the regional vocational school.

Election Day, Nov. 7, is slated a teacher day in line with recent efforts to alleviate parking at the polls at the High School. It is also earmarked for parent-teacher conferences, which have traditionally been scheduled for the last week in October.

Some decisions yet to be made

During their first reading Jan. 10, School Board members suggested eliminating one of the Wednesday early releases in November, a month rife with days off for Thanksgiving, Veterans Day and Election Day. A one-hour early release has also been scheduled Nov. 6 for conferences.

Spring conferences at the Pond Cove and Middle School are not part of the calendar, but may be held on one of February or March's early release days.

One board member, Barbara Powers, asked administrators to report next month how school will be structured on early-release days at individual schools. Mike Tracy, principal at the Middle School, said all periods for grade 5-8 will likely meet for a shorter time on those days; High School Principal Jeff Shedd said his staff was still discussing options.

Board members generally favored the draft as a reasonable balance between teachers' time with the students and time for preparation and professional development.

"These don't sound like huge changes, but they're big changes to build traditions of giving teachers time to do the work that they need to do - that they are told from the state and the government that they have to do - as well as the work they want to do to improve their practice," said board Chair Elizabeth Scifres.

Board member John Voltz said he thinks the staff development time will ultimately help improve and unify instruction. "It's not happening currently to the level it needs to," he said.

The draft calendar sets a post-Labor Day start for students of Sept. 5, 2017; and a final day of school June 11, 2018.

Vacation weeks are Dec. 25-Jan. 1; Feb. 19-23; and April 13-20. Thanksgiving break is Nov. 22-24.

Click image to download DRAFT 2017-18 school calendar:
DRAFT 2017-2018 school calendar