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One size does not fit all

WINTON – In a “one size fits all” scenario, there are cases where that doesn’t apply.

Such is the case where state officials think they know what’s best for each individual county’s school system.

It appears after action taken by the Hertford County Board of Commissioners here Monday morning during their regularly scheduled meeting, they are in support of a resolution shared by Dr. William Wright, Superintendent of the county’s public school system, that will allow the LEA (Local Education Agency) to determine the best dates to start and end a calendar school year.

In his presentation to the commissioners, Dr. Wright explained that the current statewide mandate, enacted in 2004, doesn’t allow the start of a calendar school year until the first Monday following Aug. 26 and end no later than June 11.

Dr. Wright urged the commissioners to support a Calendar Flexibility resolution, one that the Hertford County Board of Education approved at their December meeting. He said there are two major factors driving the decision to obtain calendar flexibility.

“One is that right now we have a split first semester at the high school,” he noted. “We have completed most of the instruction for the first semester, then we have a two-week Christmas break, and now we come back and try to prepare for exams. We lose learning over that break.”

With a more flexible calendar, one that calls for students to begin a new calendar year on or just after Aug. 10, Dr. Wright stated the first semester ends, complete with exams taken, prior to the Christmas break.

“Also, a flexible calendar allows us to be more in line with community college/university schedules,” he added. “This is important for our early college high school (located on the campus of Roanoke-Chowan Community College) and for other students who are dually enrolled in traditional high school classes and distant learning classes (available online by numerous colleges/universities).”

Another issue, Wright said, to consider with a flexible calendar is there are more opportunities to make-up classes lost due to inclement weather.

“Over the past three years in Hertford County, we’ve missed 22 days of school due to inclement weather, and we’re probably on the low end of that scale statewide,” he stressed. “We’ve only been able to make-up six of those days, and some of those make-ups were due to reclaiming early release days. Having a flexible calendar will address this issue as well, which we believe will enhance student achievement.”

Ronald Gatling, chairman of the Hertford County Board of Commissioners, said he supported a flexible calendar.

“I’m in total agreement with everything you just said,” said Gatling, directing his comments towards Dr. Wright. “But supposed the (state) Senate or (state) House opposes this and does approve a flexible calendar. Is there some way the county itself, or the school board itself, can move forward with such a calendar?”

Wright answered by saying, “We could ask for a waiver.”

“I disagree that people somewhere else are telling you what will work for you locally,” Gatling remarked. “When you’re trying to better meet the needs of your students, who is better to say that other than the people who are dealing with that. Not taking tests before a holiday break, then go home for two weeks and come back to take those tests, that’s crazy in my opinion.”

Gatling noted there are other ways to address this situation.

“We could have an addendum added to pending legislation or ask for special legislation,” he suggested.

Commissioner John Horton asked Wright if the flexible calendar idea was supported by the State School Board Association.

“Yes sir, it is; the State School Board is spearheading this effort as they’re asking all 115 LEAs across the state to do the same thing I’m doing here today with my presentation before my county commissioners,” Wright responded. “This is not an issue particularly for the western counties or the eastern counties, but for all the counties in our state.”

The resolution reads in part, “Whereas, local boards of education are best equipped to understand the balancing act of meeting the community’s needs and maximizing student success; and, whereas, restoring local control of school calendars will allow local boards of education to best meet the calendar preferences of the families, educators, and businesses in our community while allowing for innovative experimental approaches to improve student achievement.”

By unanimous vote, the Hertford County Board of Commissioners supported the resolution calling for a flexible school calendar. The now approved resolution from Hertford County will be forwarded to the local delegation representing the county in the North Carolina General Assembly.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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