(Note: This is the second of seven installments of what’s “New for NJSD in 2014-15.” Each Wednesday during July and August, a feature will be posted with something new to look for during the upcoming school year.)
One of the first things Neenah students will notice when they see the 2014-15 school calendar is that some of their weekends just got a little bit longer.
Professional Learning Days, which are half days used for staff training and development, have been moved to coincide with weekends and holidays to help families in planning vacations and other activities. In previous years, Professional Learning Days have been held on one Wednesday per month. Students are dismissed at 12:10 p.m. at the high school, at noon at the middle schools and at 11:30 a.m. at the elementary schools.
“The number one complaint I’ve heard since I’ve been on the board is do something about these half days in the middle of the week,” school board member Michelle Swardenski said during discussion at the Feb. 4 school board meeting in stating the importance of the topic to District families.
At that meeting, the board approved calendars for the next two years. In 2014-15, Professional Learning Days will be held on four Fridays: Sept. 26, Jan. 30, Feb. 20 and May 22. The May 22 date corresponds with Memorial Day weekend. Professional Learning Days will also be held on Wed., Nov. 26 before Thanksgiving break, Tues., Dec. 23 before winter break and Thurs., April 2 before Easter weekend. The dates are on similar weeks in 2015-16.
One concern was the challenge of keeping teaching staff focused for important training and staff development meetings just before a holiday break, but the board determined that staff development would still be successful under the new schedule and the benefits outweighed the negatives. A full day staff development program was added on Mon., August 25 to reduce the number of half days during the school year from nine to seven, while also introducing some new initiatives to staff before the school year starts.
“The calendar has been approved for two years, but like anything with the school calendar, it’s an experiment and we’ll see how it goes,” said Assistant District Administrator Vicky Holt.
Students will also have long weekends during parent-teacher conferences with a half day on Thursday and a day off on Friday of the weekends of Oct. 30-31 and Feb. 26-27. Students at the elementary and middle schools will continue to have an early dismissal on the final day of each quarter, while the high school will have final exam makeup dates on the last day of each semester.
Elementary students will continue to be released at 2:15 p.m. every Friday. The board had discussed changing the Friday early release, but wanted to maintain the additional prep time for elementary staff on Friday afternoons.
“There is no perfect calendar,” Holt added. “We gather feedback every year on what works best for parents, staff and students. It’s an ongoing process to make it the best we can for the majority.”
For the school calendars, click here: