CMS looks ahead to school calendar options

CHARLOTTE — The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools district is looking ahead to next school year and working on a new calendar to decide the best time to schedule class time and breaks.

The district has asked parents to help choose between two options in this survey.

A national assessment found student proficiency in reading and math dropped in the school district due to schools being closed during the pandemic.

School leaders are looking for any way to increase student achievement, even by discussing shortening the summer break and starting earlier in future school years.

The approval of next school year’s academic calendar is a huge deal for some families, but not so much for parent Julia Kelly.

“I’d like the teachers to be part of it on the front end so that both calendar options are teacher-approved,” Kelly said.

Nevertheless, Kelly said she filled out the survey on calendar options for CMS before Wednesday’s deadline.

“It did ask a few questions that I felt like I wasn’t qualified to answer,” Kelly said.

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Those taking the survey are asked for their feedback on two options.

Compared to this year’s calendar, both options include 177 instructional days, which is two more than this year.

Both options also have more days in the first half of the school year versus the second half of the year.

“For some people, it’s very personal,” said Elyse Dashew, board chairwoman for CMS. “It’s based on when they want to go on spring break. Sometimes it’s as simple as that.”

Dashew said balancing state-mandated instructional hours, teacher workdays, holidays and early release days is anything but simple.

“It’s a jigsaw puzzle, like everything else that we do,” Dashew said.

But the winds of change could be blowing toward CMS to consider starting earlier next year.

“I firmly believe that starting Aug. 14 would be best for kids,” Dashew said. “Can we pull that off this year? I’m not so sure.”

Since the beginning of the school year, neighboring counties have been bucking a state law that says North Carolina schools shouldn’t start earlier than the Monday closest to Aug. 26.

Dashew claimed that Cleveland, Gaston and Cabarrus Counties have skirted the state law.

“They have gone ahead and established calendars that are best academically. I would predict that the districts that are doing this are going to see the benefits in their academic outcomes,” she said.

An earlier start date means students likely wouldn’t wait until after returning from winter break to take exams.

“Most likely, you will have retained what you learned and you’ll score better,” Dashew said.

CMS board members will review the surveys results ahead of a vote on Nov. 9 on the final calendar version.

Even though there is a discussion from Dashew about possibly starting earlier next summer, she said that her colleagues have heard concerns about shortening summer by two weeks.

There’s a lot of construction and HVAC and ventilation repairs on new schools that must take place next summer.

VIDEO: National report card shows decline in CMS students’ reading, math levels

Jonathan Lowe

Jonathan Lowe, wsoctv.com

Jonathan is a reporter for WSOC-TV.