FCPS 2019-20 draft calendar is a win

by Emily Webb, Editor

FCPS recently posted the 2019-2020 school year draft calendar for public review. However, the public comment period came and went with few students aware it was available. For those of us watching the calendar, there are some significant changes that have been made that will affect the coming school year for the better.

The 2018-19 school calendar has its flaws. For example, on Friday, December 14, there was a two hour early dismissal for midterms. This was awkward as on Friday, December 21, the last week before winter break, there is not an early dismissal. The placement of these 2-hour early dismissals decreases attendance rates rather than encouraging them. In addition to this, the ends of the terms are not in logical places. Rather than coinciding with required days off, they stand on their own and take away from instructional time.

Kudos to the calendar committee: in next year’s draft calendar, these issues and more are addressed.

Logical ending to terms and semesters

Unlike this year, next year’s calendar has plans to end the terms on dates that coincide with breaks in the calendar. This may seem insignificant, but it will affect the school year positively. For example, the end of the second midterm coincides with the beginning of winter break, which falls on December 20, 2019 . This is an effective choice that will improve attendance rates and maximize instructional time. This is also true for the end of the third term; it ends on the last day before spring break.

Strategically placed 2 hour early dismissals and days off

In addition to the minor tweaks made to the calendar, there have also been some changes made to the days we get out early and off school.

According to Tracey Lucas, Executive Director of School Administration and Leadership for Frederick County Public Schools, “The calendar has included a day or two for spring break, a day off the Wednesday before Thanksgiving as input from the community has suggested, as well as Fair Day and some Jewish holidays. Input from the community is very important in what holidays are included beyond the state and federal.”

The fact that FCPS did not have a day off on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving was a huge complaint this year. In fact, at Linganore High School, the attendance rate on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving was 81.5%. This is low compared to the usual attendance rate of around 95%.

Giving students the Wednesday off before Thanksgiving will improve attendance rates. The placement of 2-hour dismissals and days off go hand in hand with the ending of terms and semesters.

As much as teachers try, it is hard to keep students engaged when the end of the semester, term, or a holiday break is looming. Between short attention spans and high absence rates, effective instruction is difficult to achieve.

Longer Winter break

Keep your pajamas on, students and staff of FCPS will be pleased to hear that next year’s calendar has a longer winter break. Rather than an 11 day break, next year has 12 days off. Although it’s just longer by a day, this improvement is definitely appreciated.

“I would be excited to get a longer winter break, it would be a nice break from school and I would get to spend more time with my family,” said freshman Ashley Hollar.

The draft calendar does not include testing dates, senior graduation dates, or a few other minor things, but stay tuned for the official calendar release coming in early January.