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The Rockingham County School Board is considering making some changes for the 2022-23 academic school year in terms of the calendar.

At a meeting Monday, board members heard from Superintendent Oskar Scheikl and Larry Shifflett, assistant superintendent of innovation and learning, about some different strategies the school division is looking to implement next year.

Normally, the School Board would see the first draft of the calendar for next school year for the first time in February after principals, faculty, staff and parent groups had a chance to have their input considered. Scheikl and Shifflett wanted to go over some overarching ideas, particularly when it comes to teacher workdays, with the School Board before taking it to the school groups.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the School Board was considering a pilot program in the Turner Ashby school district that would send students to school an hour later to give teachers more time every day for collaboration and professional development. The idea was met with pushback from parents, who were concerned about the additional hour of child care that would require. The issue was put on the back burner as the school division dealt with the ramifications of the pandemic and virtual learning.

Scheikl said at Monday’s meeting that the parental concerns were heard, and instead of revisiting the idea of students going to school an hour early, building in more days throughout the school year for teachers to work together and for students to have the day off.

Most Rockingham County Public Schools academic calendars include 183 instructions with three of those days banked for inclement weather. The proposal for the 2022-23 instructional calendar would be 175 instructional days and five teacher work days scattered throughout the year. This would also break up large chunks of instructional time that students would normally see without a break. Instead of going to school for five or six weeks without a break, those blocks would be broken up with the occasional Friday off, Shifflett said.

The state requires that students attend school either 180 days or 990 instructional hours. The proposed calendar would create that cushion in instructional hours by eliminating early dismissals. The proposed 2022-23 school calendar does not include any early dismissals, thus making up for the hours that the teacher work days would eat up.

Shifflett told the School Board he wanted to bring the proposal to them for any “tweaks or revisions they deem necessary.”

The 2022-23 academic calendar also includes a Wednesday start date for the fall, as opposed to the Monday start date. When developing the current academic calendar, RCPS wanted to match Harrisonburg City Public Schools as much as possible since students from both school divisions attend Massanutten Technical Center.

HCPS has indicated it would like to start school earlier than RCPS next year, Shifflett said. A Wednesday start allows students to ease into the new year by having a three-day school week before a two-day weekend. It also allows RCPS to bring in prekindergartners on Friday to get them acclimated to the school setting before having a weekend.

The proposed start date for the 2022-23 school year is Aug. 24, with a last day of June 8.

The fully proposed academic calendar will be an information item at the Feb. 14 meeting, and the School Board is set to approve it on Feb. 28.

Contact Megan Williams at 574-6272 or Follow Megan on Twitter @Valley_Learn

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