How does a new school calendar come together?

Moffat County High School in Craig, Colorado on Dec. 17, 2021.
Photo by Billy Schuerman / For the Craig Press

Before presenting its proposed new calendar to the Moffat County Board of Education, members of the calendar committee explained its reasons for coming up with schedules for the upcoming school years.

The plan presented includes calendars for the next three years, and there will be a yearly review of how the district is handling the change, if approved by the board. Last spring, all staff were invited to join the committee. Before breaking for the summer, the committee made sure that all buildings of the district were represented. In the fall, they met at least once a week to discuss research about different calendar models and what might be the best for the district.

During last semester, the committee released surveys to the community to garner feedback about the idea of sending students to class only four days out of the week. According to the results of that survey, MCHS instructional coach Amy Hansen said, 73.8% of those who responded supported a four-day week. Approximately 600 responses were taken, and 50% gave a five-day calendar a rating of “1,” meaning that they did not support continuing with a traditional calendar. 30% were neutral.

She added that, while creating the calendar, the committee had principles it wanted to focus on when coming up with a final draft. The committee was divided into groups to create mock calendars, and the draft is a consensus based on what the groups brought together.

“The first pillar was student success,” Hansen told the board on Thursday. “You have to consider how the decisions we’re making are going to impact our students you met. Our second one was teacher recruitment and retention. Unfortunately, we know that we are in the midst of a nationwide teacher shortage. It’s affecting districts all across the nation, and we are not exempt. We’re already experiencing some of the effects of that. And, frankly, we expect to continue to do so at least for a time. Our third was professional learning, collaboration and professional development time to build teacher collective efficacy.”

In the proposal that was ultimately presented, teachers would have professional development days every other Friday. Those could include school-wide or departmental workshops, but at the moment, plans for those days are not concrete. Having specified professional development for current teachers was a priority of many committee members that spoke at the monthly board meeting.

“We wanted our calendar to provide opportunities for our staff to work together in their teams to build that collective efficacy in our teams, because we know that’s important,” Hansen said. “Our last (principle) was supporting the district strategic plan.”

According to the committee’s research, a four-day week does have a positive impact on recruitment and a neutral effect on student success, meaning it did not change whether students attended four or five days. Under the proposed calendar, students would still reach the required 968 hours of instructional time for students in first through fifth grades and 1,056 hours for middle and high school students. To figure out how to distribute those hours, Ridgeview and Maybell principal Ryan Frink said that it’s a balance between lengthening the school day and deciding what weeks students will attend class. Currently, the drafted calendar has included more than the minimum amount of instructional time.

“One of the things that our committee decided is we didn’t want to base Moffat County education on minimums,” Frink said. “We definitely wanted to meet those, but we didn’t want to just set it at the minimums and then divide everything back and say we just have to do just the minimum.”

Board members on Tuesday expressed concerns that prospective teachers would turn to Hayden or Meeker — whose calendars end earlier in the summer — but principal Sara Hepworth said at least at the high school level, that’s not happening. Teachers tend to go somewhere else because of multifaceted issues that include salary, housing and other personal decisions. Right now, there are teachers in the district who do not have the credentials to teach, but professional days could help them become fully qualified, executive director of school support and personnel Renae Ogden told the board. A large portion of the MCSD staff is in their first or second year of teaching.

There will be two listening and comment sections for the community on Feb. 1 and Feb. 8 at the district administration building from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

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