The Jasper County School District will conduct a community survey after it floated the idea last week to switch from a traditional school calendar to a custom calendar that would shorten the summer vacation to six weeks.
The vote, which will take place online, is open to staff, parents and students. People can leave their comments anonymously and choose which of the two suggested custom calendars they like best, according to the school district. The investigation ends Tuesday.
This is not the first time a modified calendar proposal has been put forward, Chief Inspector Rechel Anderson said at a meeting on Feb. 2. In 2018, a school in Hardeeville was ready to make the switch, but due to timing complications with the rest of the district’s schools, it decided not to go ahead with it.
The district re-imagined the idea after the pandemic began, Anderson said, as it has presented challenges for some students.
“What we’re seeing now is catching up,” Anderson said. “We have students who have literally missed an entire year of education.”
Statistics show that students lose about a month of information during the summer months, a drop that educators refer to as the “summer slide,” according to research conducted in August 2020 on COVID-19 and its effects on learning loss. The changed calendar would shorten the summer vacation in favor of shorter but more frequent breaks throughout the year.
Currently, the district is required by the state to hold 180 days of classes for students. Employees work 190 days, of which 10 days are teacher planning. State law also requires the district to include three weather days per year to account for hurricanes or other natural events.
State law also prohibits the district from beginning school before the third Thursday in August unless it is on a modified calendar.
Under the changed calendar, students would still attend the same number of days as they would on a traditional schedule, Anderson said. A calendar option discussed at the meeting suggested school could begin as early as July 21 and run through June 2 with a two-week break every nine weeks.
During the two-week breaks, parents have the option to continue sending students to school, Anderson said. The district will also partner with local Boys & Girls Clubs and YMCA to find childcare facilities for families. Both options are closed during holidays such as Christmas and Spring Break.
Travis Washington, a spokesperson for the Jasper County School District, said the proposed plans were discussed in detail in the virtual meeting last week and the district had nothing more to add.
The school district will hold a virtual community gathering at 6 p.m. Wednesday following a 4:30 p.m. meeting with faculty and staff in the Hardeeville-Ridgeland Middle School auditorium.
This story was originally published February 7, 2022 2:37 PM.