On Monday night, I sat and listened to a debate I've heard many times over the years. I was at the Mason ISD school board meeting, and you might guess the most heated topic concerned 2008-2009 fuel costs, or maybe the latest testing requirements for graduation.
Nope. It was the calendar.
For all the years I've covered the school board, the calendar has always been one of the most contentious and hotly debated topics. The debates start in the spring, continue through the summer, and carry on through the first class day.
There are many reasons for difficulty that boards have dealing with this issue. The first, and always the one that carries the most weight, is the State of Texas' requirements for instructional time.
The state requires that students seats be at their desk for a predetermined number of days. This is something that can not be negotiated or discussed. And, if this were the only consideration, the board would have no problem. Divide up the number of days, put half before Christmas, half after, and you're pretty much done with the calendar.
As you may have already guessed, that's not the only thing they have to deal with when planning out the schedule. The state will not allow you to start before certain dates, or go beyond certain dates. Okay,,, no real problem. Except for those pesky holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and Memorial Day keep rearing their heads and demanding some time off from school.
So, you just plug in the holidays. No problem.
Except there are state mandated testing days. Those have to be fit in at some point. And of course, if the students are nearing the end of the six week grading period and need remedial work to bring up their grades, you have to find time to provide that assistance. That's a few more days that have to be accounted for on the final calendar.
Oh, yeah, did I mention stock shows? Mason kids are avid participants in the stock shows held around the state, and the scholarship money they receive at these shows enable them to attend college and further their dreams. So there needs to be wiggle room for attending the Mason show, and definitely Houston. Austin is somewhere in there, as is San Angelo, Fort Worth,,,, but you can't keep giving time off. What to do, what to do?
Ahhh,,, how about wrapping the spring break around the Houston show? That way, the students who are participating, as well as the parents (some of whom are teachers) can go to Houston without missing class.
Of course, if you do that, then our spring break doesn't coordinate with anyone else's spring break. Which means that we're out of school, but other folks are in school and trying to schedule athletic events, UIL meets, etc., and we've got all our kids trying to have a vacation with their families.
And, so it goes.
There is no right answer, just as there is no wrong answer. There are compromises and adjustments, and there are final decisions, and then, there is a calendar. And it will change, albeit to a smaller degree, as the year progresses.
And next year, the school board will once again argue (not discuss) how best to plot out the school year. And no one will be wrong. And no one will be right. And everyone will have a better solution than the one the board elected to follow.
It’s all just my opinion, but it’s what I wish would happen.