"Very logical" is how School Board member John Andrews describes the proposed 2004-05 school calendar that starts school the day after Labor Day.
"After four years, this is the best calendar I've ever seen," said Andrews (Broad Run).
The school district's state-issued waiver to start school a week early expired this year when the schools did not miss enough school days due to weather and emergency conditions. The state considers five of the past 10 years with the highest number of missed days before continuing the waiver. This year, the public schools missed too few days and appealed to the state superintendent.
"It has taken out of our hands the most contentious issue concerning our calendar, which was the start date," said Thomas Reed (At large), adding that parents who plan some of their holidays around Labor Day have to change their plans or see their children miss a day of school.
"Loudoun County will finally do what most other school districts do," said Warren Geurin (Sterling). "It's what you're supposed to do. It's what the law requires."
THE PROPOSED CALENDAR starts the 2004-05 school year on Sept. 7 and ends it on June 17 without changing the fixed calendar that provides predictable holidays each year and maintains the breaks outlined in the School Board's policy. The winter break is scheduled from Dec. 23-29, 2004 and spring break from March 21-25, 2005.
"Otherwise, the calendar looks much like it did before," said Superintendent Edgar Hatrick. "We think this is the best solution when we are confronted with state restrictions ... and meeting the requirements of your policy," he said.
The calendar cuts the length of the school year from 185 to 183 student calendar days, a cut made necessary to continue the fixed calendar. Without the cut, the school year would have to be extended by two days or some of the teacher workdays and holidays would have to be removed from the calendar.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Presidents' Day and Memorial Day are marked as holidays on the calendar, with Columbus Day not included, a concern for Reed since the Knights of Columbus hold a parade that day. "For me with the exception of the Columbus Day issue, I'm very comfortable with it," he said.
The proposed calendar reduces the teacher contract days from 198 to 197 days and moves one to two staff development days to the summer. From Aug. 20 to Sept. 3, the calendar includes two in-school and three countywide staff development days and three days for planning and preparation and another five planning and conference days during the school year.
"Teachers have been rushed and staff has been rushed before school starts. It's a more reasonable approach," Geurin said.
In addition, the calendar recognizes 15 minutes that are unaccounted for in each teacher workday. "That's just a reflection of what teachers already do," said Wayde Byard, school press officer.
The public has one month to comment on the calendar before the School Board is scheduled to adopt it on Oct. 28. The public can comment before the full board at the Oct. 14 School Board meeting.
IN OTHER BUSINESS, the School Board:
* Approved a $9.2 million bid to low bidder Howard Shockey & Sons, Inc. of Winchester to construct Belmont Station Elementary School in Belmont Green, which is scheduled to open in fall 2005.
* Heard a new hires report for the 2003-04 school year. The school district hired 507 licensed employees, including 38 public schools graduates, bringing the total to 5,941 full-time and 3,062 part-time employees.
As for classified staff, the district hired 319 employees with 19 vacancies to fill.
"It still amazes me we recruit more professionals than most school systems have employees," said School Board chairman Joseph Vogric (Dulles).
* Heard a report on the cost per pupil, which is based on various funding sources. The rate charged to out-of-county students is the amount the county pays for each student. The rate charged to out-of-state students includes the county share, along with federal and state funding and other local funding and sales tax receipts.
The out-of-state rate for 2002-03 is $9,698, a figure used to determine the tuition rate for out-of-state students for the 2003-04 school year. The tuition rate the year before was $9,280.