Next year, students will only be in school for three weeks in February. The other week they will be on a February break. This is just one of many new additions to the DCPS calendar for 2018-19. The calendar was redesigned this year to incorporate feedback from parents, students, and teachers.
To create the calendar, DCPS released a survey that allowed parents and students to give input on what they would like to see in the future. The survey included questions regarding desired starting and ending times, winter break length, and placement of professional development days. “We targeted our questions on issues where we felt we had some flexibility and where the public might have strong opinions,” said Shayne Wells, the Interim Press Secretary for DCPS.
Changes to the calendar include the elimination of half days, an increase in the number of five-day weeks, and a longer Thanksgiving break. The most significant change was the addition of a February break. Wells said that this was added because “we heard some concerns that students and teachers need an additional period of rest between Winter Break and Spring.”
Mass media teacher Kadesha Bonds said that she is happy with the February break even though she “would prefer the full two weeks at Winter break that they used to give us.”
Because of parents’ displeasure with the number of shortened weeks this year, DCPS increased the number of five-day weeks with the new schedule. Next year, many professional development days will be clustered around the end of the term or close to holidays.
Student reactions to the calendar have been mixed. One common complaint is the school start date, which has moved one day earlier every year since 2011. Wells said that this has happened because the calendar has to move forward one to two days each year since there are 52 weeks and one day in a year. “Every five to six years, we have an opportunity to reset the calendar back a week,” he said, so students can look forward to this in the coming school years.
Social studies teacher Jonathan Shea is skeptical that the survey results were actually considered in the making of the calendar. “I’ve never had a sense that they are really listening,” he said. However, Wells assured that they “were able to meet the public’s preference for each of the questions we sought input on, except for the desire to finalize the calendar earlier in the year.”
According to Wells, in coming years, DCPS hopes to plan and release the calendar earlier in the year. They also would like to find a better way to make up snow days so the school year will not have to be extended.