While preparing the 2017-18 school calendar, some LISD trustees questioned the practicality of early-release school days.
Board members debated whether benefits to teachers and staff were worth the burden on parents.
Leander ISD’s Karie Lynn McSpadden, assistant superintendent of human resources, presented a recommended calendar, which included four early release days. One day falls just before the start of winter break, one on the last day of school, and two more on Oct. 25, 2017 and Feb. 21, 2018, both of which are Wednesdays.
The Texas Education Agency allows six early-release days per school year.
Place 6 Trustee Aaron Johnson said that students should be given the whole day off or attend school for a full day.
“I have heard from members of the community for years that a mid-week early release is pretty disruptive to employment schedules and things like that,” Johnson said. “It’s easier to make arrangement for students if they are not going to be in school, but half days create challenges.”
McSpadden said the early-release days are used for staff development and teacher conferences and are important to teachers.
“It provides an opportunity for staff to collaborate and provide staff development and parent conferences,” she said. “I do believe the campuses really value that time to come together for professional development.”
She said combining the Oct. 25 and Feb. 21 early-release days to create one full day of school and one full day off is not an option.
“You can’t combine two early-release days to get a full day that would reduce the instructional days,” she said.
Board members also asked why two of the early-release days were slated for
“The challenge with those early-release days are Wednesdays,” McSpadden said. “We hear ‘Why don’t we do them on Friday?’ Wednesday causes the least amount of disruption to student activities based on UIL and fine arts.”
“I question the value of that half day versus the costs to our families,” Johnson said. “I think there are other ways to get the value that those hours potentially present. I would be interested to see alternatives evaluated.”
Superintendent Dan Troxell said he wants to show parents and the board how teachers are using those days to benefit the schools. He plans to find out exactly what teachers and administrators are doing on early-release days and report back to the board.
“The issue is the weight of the benefit the school district is getting versus the hardship for some of our families to take care of their children during that period of time,” Troxell said.
If staff finds the early-release days are not crucial for staff development, they can choose to adjust Oct. 25 and Feb. 21 to full days of instruction.
McSpadden requested a report in time for the board’s second meeting in January.