May 5: School Calendar 2017-18

Spotlight on Schools: School Calendar 2017-18

May 5, 2017 — Hello Black River Falls Community! This is Dr. Shelly Severson with the School District of Black River Falls here to share this week’s installment of our Spotlight on Schools! I’d like to take today’s spotlight time to talk about the school calendar for the 2017-2018 school year. While local school boards have the authority to set the school calendar through state statute, there are some requirements that the state holds. The first, and perhaps most limiting, is that the law will not allow schools to start classes prior to September 1st each year unless a request for some significant extenuating circumstances is approved. This is really quite limiting, as we also know that people prefer to be out in early June. Additionally, we have fall high school sports and clubs that begin to compete well before school starts. This puts an additional hardship on those families and students as they begin attending practices in the beginning of August, a full month before the first day of class. Participation in fall sports is reducing, as some kids just don’t want to give up weeks of summer vacation that their peers are still enjoying!

The other requirement by the state is the number of instructional minutes that must happen at each of the levels. There used to be rules about the number of school days, but that was repealed a few years back. There is actually an item in the governor’s budget proposal this year to eliminate the required number of minutes, I personally would not be in favor of that.

This year we took a little different approach to creating our calendar. Knowing that we cannot start before September 1, and knowing how many student minutes we must meet, the number of days staff are contracted, and balancing that with professional development needs of the district, and the responses from the parent calendar survey that showed parents are looking for some three day weekends every now and then for their family, we created two draft calendars to choose from. The primary difference between the two drafts was that one was compressed and we finished on June 1, the second was spread out a bit more with a few “breaks” thrown in. Families and staff overwhelmingly chose the one that was a little more spread out, that means our last day of school will be Thursday, June 7th, 2018. For those of you early planners, that means graduation in 2018 will be on Sunday, June 10th.

The other significant change is that we are spreading our professional development time out to small increments throughout the year. We have spent an extensive amount of time training our staff to work together in what are called professional learning communities. The research is extremely strong on school improvement efforts and the support for these professional learning communities, or PLC’s as they are called. The key to effectively using these strategies is the opportunity for teachers to work together in these teams analyzing their lessons, the student outcomes, their assessments, and the resources they are using to get at the content, on a regular basis. They make quick adjustments based on the feedback of their colleagues and get back together to report the efficiency of those adjustments. If you’ve been around a while, you may remember that we used to do two-hour late starts, then we shifted to fuller day and half day releases for professional development. We are once again shifting, and we are very excited to reap the benefits of this time! Beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, we will dismiss all students one hour early each Friday. The staff will then use that time to work in their PLC’s. While we recognize this is an inconvenience for our families, we appreciate their support and willingness to make it work. We have talked to MANY other districts to see how they have created this PLC time, and we landed on the best possible solution for BRF.

In keeping with our routine this year of sharing some sunshine each week, I wanted to highlight a comment from our recent Graduate survey. A graduate of 1996 has this to say: “Love being a Tiger and having my kids grow up as Tigers” I feel like that is the perfect sentiment!

As always, if you have any questions about this or anything else within the district, don’t hesitate to contact me. Thank you so much for your support of the School District of Black River Falls! Go Tigers!


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