We sat down with Sheridan Elementary School Principal Dixie Coleman to answer all of your questions about Sheridan’s alternative calendar for the 2021-2022 school year.
How did the calendar come to be?
Well, we were given the opportunity to come up with a dream calendar, something that would make a difference and impact on the students first, and on the teachers and their ability to serve those students. So, I did some research on different types of calendars, came up with this alternate calendar that I just really thought would benefit the entire district, and presented it to the Board of Education in that light. Then, they decided that it would be nice if we piloted it first, and then maybe next year the district will take that on full-time.
What are some of the major changes this calendar has?
Really, it’s just those two weeks that we’ve put into the calendar. In the last few years, just our beginning of the school year is teaching social skills to the younger kids before we can even get to the academics. So, we’ve seen a gradual decline in the academics. So our thought was that if we can have continuous five-day weeks without interruption with one plan day or with a holiday or this and that, that we could really get some momentum going. Then also build in at the end of each quarter a period of time where teachers can get the Professional Development (PD) they need, take that next daytime to reflect on that development and think about how they’re going to implement it for the next quarter, make those plans to implement it, all while the students are also having a week off to reset, to refresh and then come back. Everyone’s nice and ready to go for that next quarter. So we’ve built that into this calendar, where we have some PD time, we have that reflection and reset time. Teachers have time a few days in between also just to refresh. Think about that, we’re all fighting for our medical appointments during the summer and during Christmas break, and now you have the opportunity to take care of yourself throughout the year. So, we see so many advantages.
What about childcare?
That week in October and the week prior to Spring Break we also would have the Boys and Girls Club here for any parents that need the daycare piece. During that time, we’ll have teachers and classified staff that wish to come and tutor, they will work with the kids who have been invited to come and have tutoring sessions during that time. It’s also an opportunity, possibly, for those kids who have been truant to have to come in and make up some of that time. So, kids come to school during the quarter, they look forward to that week off. Kids that might have been truant, or that their parents and their teachers together feel they need a little extra, will have that time together in a smaller setting to get those skills. So, we’re really excited about what’s coming.
What should parents know?
One of the misconceptions that were out there is that this was a yearlong calendar. It is not a year-round calendar. It just is designed to have those breaks that we might need in between, and still, have at least eight weeks of summer. Number two, daycare was the big thing. We do need better daycare here, so we solve that problem by having the Boys and Girls Club work with us. It’s something new. Sometimes people are so used to what they’ve been doing that change is a little scary, but if we keep doing what we’ve been doing we get the same results, and sometimes we have to try something new.
Why is piloting this calendar important?
Well, there are several reasons and part of it is what I talked about with having that time for teachers to have those breaks in between quarters, not just for that mental refresh, health, but also to really be able to take in the data that we’ve collected and make some intensive, intentional changes so that they can make that the best effort for the next quarter to meet the needs of the students. Also, in years past, we’ve always had this difference between secondary and elementary days off, where elementary kids might be off and it would affect the secondary attendance because sometimes the secondary students had to stay home to watch the kids. If we develop this calendar again for the district next year, and we have both elementary and secondary children out at the same time, wow think about that. That will fix a lot of the problems that we’ve been hearing about from parents the last few years. That’s what it was designed to do. I think being able to really, intentionally plan and use the data that we’re seeing, that’s the biggest thing to meet the needs of the kids.
What will happen with the calendar after this school year?
Throughout the year I will be meeting with Dr. Eggleston. We collect data throughout the year just to see, we’ll gather parent surveys and input just to see what they’re feeling, students will get their input, and then we’ll make some decisions at the end of the year. That’s a board decision, so giving them all the information they need will be our job so that they can make the informed decision as to whether this was a good thing or something that we need to revisit.
What’s your message to parents before this school year?
We are with you, we’re working right with you. This is new to us as well. As hopeful and excited as we are, we also have some of those same thoughts and concerns. We don’t know what we don’t know, and so if we’re impacting someone in a way that we need to know about so we can help them through it, please let us know. We want to be here to help. That’s our job, is to make sure that we’re taking care of our students, the staff, and the families that we serve. So just call me, email me, and we’ll work through it.
For more information on Sheridan’s calendar, please contact Coleman at firstname.lastname@example.org.