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4 CMS schools may go all year

School board will also vote on new 180-day academic calendar

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The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board will vote Tuesday on a plan for year-round calendars at four Project LIFT schools, which serve about 2,700 pre-K through eighth-grade students.

If the plan is approved, students at two schools, Druid Hills and Thomasboro, will attend 19 more days than other CMS students, with short breaks in summer, fall, winter and spring. They’ll start July 22 and finish their year on June 20, 2014.

At two others, Bruns and Byers, students will attend 180 days, like most other schools. But their breaks will be spread out to reduce the long summer vacation when many students lose academic skills. They’ll start July 23 and finish June 13.

All four are among the nine high-poverty, low-scoring schools targeted by Project LIFT – for Leadership and Investment for Transformation. Local donors have pledged $55 million over the next five years to boost student success at West Charlotte High and the schools that feed into it. That private money will cover the $2.1 million cost of changing the calendars in 2013-14, according to the plan going before the school board.

The proposal says there will be unspecified “minimal costs” to taxpayers.

Denise Watts, the administrator in charge of the LIFT schools, spent the fall talking to faculty members and families from those schools about the prospect of year-round and/or extended calendars. Everyone affected had a chance to weigh in on surveys.

Watts says spending more time in school has shown benefits in other districts, as long as teachers use the time effectively. Project LIFT plans to provide activities with academic value during the breaks at the four year-round schools.

New calendar for all

Also Tuesday, the board will vote on a revised 2013-14 calendar for all other schools. The new calendar reduces student days from 185 to 180 and creates a full two-week winter break.

The calendar approved last spring met a legislative mandate to add five days. It provided a week and a half of winter break. During the summer, state lawmakers gave school districts the option of cutting the number of days, as long as they provide at least 1,025 hours of instruction. CMS tops that level at 180 days.

The revised 2013-14 calendar, like the current one, starts Aug. 26 and ends June 10. CMS leaders say shifting the five days from student days to teacher workdays helps teachers do better preparation and creates more options for bad-weather makeup days.

Employees and families reviewed two 180-day options and logged their preferences in a recent online poll. The recommended option, which has the two-week winter break, was the overwhelming favorite.

The board will hear public comments on all the calendar proposals at Tuesday’s meeting, which will be held at 6 p.m. at Druid Hills Academy, 2801 Lucena St. Speakers can sign up on site or call 980-343-5139 by noon Tuesday.

Helms: 704-358-5033
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