The Spring Lake Park School Board approved a 2014-2015 calendar April 8 that includes a number of changes, such as fewer student days and a later graduation date.
To create extra planning and work time for teachers, students will be in the classroom less in 2014-2015 – 168 days instead of 170.
The change should improve student learning, allowing teachers more time to utilize assessment data; design “engaging, targeted instruction” for students; and improve communication with parents, according to Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg, who with Denise Waalen, director of educational services, led the calendar development process this year.
“We are increasing expectations,” Ronneberg said at a work session March 25, when several versions of the calendar were discussed. “We’re also providing more time.”
The calendar was designed so that breaks and teacher work days allow for solid blocks of learning, rather than disjointed days in the classroom, according to Waalen. Professional learning days are tacked on to longer breaks, for the most part.
School starts Sept. 2, Sept. 3 for kindergartners and returning high school students. From that time to mid-October, there are no scheduled days off.
“We know that that’s really an important time for teachers to get to know and start to build those relationships with students …,” Waalen said.
The week of the Education Minnesota Professional Conference, Oct. 13-17, includes four days dedicated to professional learning; assessment, reporting and learning design; and conferences and communication.
Day conferences aren’t usually too popular with parents, so though the option won’t go away, the calendar encourages experimentation with communication. Teachers might choose to hold office hours throughout the year and take one of the days devoted to communication as compensatory time. They will work with their principals to come up with a classroom communication plan.
“We’re just looking for pockets of innovation to try different ways to communicate with parents,” Waalen said.
Teachers also have a day without students on either side of Thanksgiving break; the Thursday and Friday before President’s Day, as well as the holiday; and a day on either side of spring break, the second week in March next year. May 1, a Friday unconnected to any other breaks, is scheduled for professional learning as well.
Like this year, there will be no early releases.
“We’re really trying to move away from anything that’s piecemeal and really give our teachers time to focus and improve their work,” Waalen said.
The last day of school and graduation is June 5.
This year, graduation is a week earlier, but there were problems with seniors having enough instructional time with all of the cold days.
Staff estimates that even with two fewer days in the classroom, there are about three snow or cold days built into next year’s schedule; the state requires a certain number of instructional hours, not days.
Issues with graduation in May run deeper than cold days. “Part of the problem is we have very few classes that are just seniors,” Ronneberg said. “So by having that whole [last] week off, it cuts school off a week-plus early for our non-seniors.”
Boardmember Marilynn Forsberg expressed some concern that graduation would now coincide with Tower Days, but discussion moved away from that point.
To view the complete calendar, visit http://www.springlakeparkschools.org/staying-connected/district-calendar.
Olivia Koester is at