School District Adjusts Academic Calendar for 2019-20 School Year

A calendar for the 2019-20 school year, which consists of an extra week of summer vacation and a shorter winter break, was adopted Tuesday by Washoe County School District trustees.

School will start the second week in August 2019. A fall break is scheduled, along with a two-week winter break, two-week spring break, and nine-week summer vacation.

District staff discussed an online community survey that presented the public with four calendar options and asked for top likes and dislikes regarding the academic calendar.

According to the district, 74,185 ConnectEd calls were made in a recipient’s preferred language in late May asking the survey be taken. An additional 64,992 emails were sent. Some received both a phone call and email, along with follow-up reminder calls and emails. The district’s system was set up to allow one reply per computer to reduce multiple replies from one household. About 24 percent responded.

Text messages, as well as alerts on the district’s website, Twitter, and Facebook pages also asked people to complete the survey.

An academic calendar that starts the second week in August, has a one-week fall break, a two-week winter break, a one-week spring break, and school letting out in late May was most popular with survey takers. This would equate to a 10-week summer.

Melissa Boesen
Melissa Boesen

Melissa Boesen, president of Washoe Education Support Professionals Association, told trustees many members are in favor of longer summers and oppose calendars with long breaks during the academic year.

“It has been expressed to me time and time again that the current calendar is a financial hardship. We are losing education support professionals, bus drivers and nutrition service workers. They just can’t afford to work for the district,” Boesen said. “With the three-week winter break, that’s five weeks our workers go without pay. Imagine coming back after Christmas and not getting a paycheck until the end of January. Summer break is too short. They are unable to get a summer job in the private sector to help cover costs. When they return in August, they’re not looking at a paycheck until the end of August or first of September.”

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The district’s balanced calendar currently allows for an eight-week summer. District staff also cited research that shows gaps of more than that are harmful to children’s learning and there’s no study that shows long breaks are good for students, who can lose between 2 and 2.6 months of grade level equivalency during summer.

Therefore, Superintendent Traci Davis tried to meet the public and researchers halfway. She suggested trustees adopt a calendar that starts the second week in August, has a one-week fall break, two week winter break, two-week spring break, and lets out the first week in June. Davis also said that calendar recognizes most of the survey’s top three likes and dislikes. Trustees agreed.

Malena Raymond
Malena Raymond

“I certainly acknowledge there are areas in our district where families can provide that support at home during the summer or pay for summer camps to provide that academic support,” Trustee Malena Raymond said. “But what’s driving me is the length of the summer and that drop off in retention for those who aren’t being challenged in one way or the other over the summer.”

Additionally, Davis said a two-week spring break allows time for credit recovery intersessions, which could help struggling high school students graduate on time.

Favorite existing calendar features were having a week-long fall break, ending fall semester before winter vacation, and a two-week spring break.

“With the older, traditional calendar, kids came back to school right after the break and had to take finals,” said Bryn Lapenta, senior director of student accounting.

The least favorite features on the current calendar were starting school in early August, having a three-week winter break and ending the school year the second or third week in June.

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MORE SURVEY INFORMATION:

  • There were 17,787 replies: 62 percent identified as parents, 24 percent district staff, and 9 percent students. Some refused to identify their role. All but 110 replies were submitted in English.
  • The most replies (2,276) came from ZIP code 89436, which is northeast Sparks/Wingfield Springs/Spanish Springs; followed by 1,850 replies from ZIP code 89523, which is northwest Reno/Somersett. Rounding out the top five were the southwest Reno and south suburban ZIPs of 89509, 89521 and 89511.
  • About 55 percent of survey takers indicated they wanted the fall semester to end before winter break. On the other hand, 53 percent said they wanted school to start later in August. However, a late August start isn’t possible if the fall term is to end by winter vacation.
  • The district last surveyed the community in 2011, and the current balanced calendar was adopted in 2012. It revisited the calendar again to gauge current opinion since new people have moved to the area since and others are families with young children who’ve recently entered the district.
Carla O'Day
About Carla O'Day 405 Articles
Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.