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Early release days dropped from 2016-17 school calendar

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A new school calendar for 2016-17 eliminates early release days and adds two professional development/work days for teachers.

The calendar formally adopted by the Delta County Board of Education in January is the result of a collaborative effort spearheaded by Marty Rover, a Delta High School teacher who is pursuing an advanced degree and chose the calendar as the focus of a research project for a leadership course.

The project started with eight options, which were narrowed to four by a districtwide calendar committee. The four options were presented in a survey to staff members, students and parents.

In a presentation to the Delta County School Board, Rover explained how he started at the end of the school year, which then determined when school should start.

This year, there's an entire week between the last day of school on May 20 and Memorial Day on May 30. Extending the school year to the Friday preceding Memorial Day would move the start of school later in August.

That puts the first day of school on Aug. 22, and the last on May 26, 2017. It's recommended that Friday, May 26, be a half day for students, to give teachers the afternoon to finalize grades and check out, erasing the need for them to return to school the day after the holiday.

The calendar will include the typical weeklong October, February and April breaks, although the February and April breaks will be shifted a week -- the February break to coincide with Presidents' Day (Feb. 20) and the April break to maintain the six-week spacing. Those breaks are considered one of the school district's biggest recruiting tools for new teachers.

There's a three-day break at Thanksgiving, and two full weeks for Christmas and New Year's. Students will have Martin Luther King Jr. Day off on Jan. 16, which will be a professional development day for staff.

The additional professional development days are contingent on the 2016-17 budget being able to support the added expense. Superintendent Caryn Gibson said teachers' salaries are divided by the number of days they work to determine the bump in salary each will receive for the additional days of work.The increase will make teacher salaries more competitive with neighboring districts, a priority for both school administrators and board members. Rover said teachers just want reassurance the pay for additional work days won't replace step increases. "Ideally, teachers would get both," Rover said.

The early release days were eliminated because by the time teachers travel to a central location for professional development, there's not a lot of time left in the afternoon. Plus, the five early release days have been problematic for working parents and student athletes.

There's one day in the fall when elementary students will be off, but middle and high school students will attend school as usual. That day is intended to give the elementary teachers extra time to prepare and hold parent-teacher conferences.

The calendar also includes one flex day, which building principals can use at their discretion.

Instructional days total 167 for elementary students and 168 for middle/high school students, which Gibson said meets Colorado Department of Education requirements. As proposed, teachers will work 177 days.

The same model was adopted for 2017-18 and 2018-19. All three calendars can be viewed and downloaded on the school district's webite.

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