School board approves adjustments to next year’s school calendar
Changes would aim to give teachers more time for professional development, training
Eagle County School District students could have a later-than-expected start to the 2023-24 school year as the district aims to provide additional, uninterrupted time for teacher professional development.
The new start date was approved — alongside some other changes to the calendar — during last week’s Eagle County School District Board of Education meeting. However, the changes won’t officially go into effect until the Eagle County Education Association also votes to approve the changes.
“Teachers need time to collaborate and train,” said Superintendent Philip Qualman at the Jan. 25 board meeting. “As a district, we’re making some important, comprehensive improvements to curriculum, instruction, assessment and grading practices; and all those changes require training and the training requires time.”
To make more time, the district made several changes, which shift the start and end dates of the first semester and the start of the second semester. Specifically, the proposed changes to the 2023-24 school year calendar are as follows:
- Move a teacher-directed workday from Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023, to Friday, Dec. 22, 2023 (which was originally a professional development day for teachers)
- Make the last day of the first semester for students Thursday, Dec. 21 rather than Wednesday, Dec. 20
- Move the Friday, Dec. 22, 2023, professional development day to Monday, Jan. 8, 2024 (which was initially a teacher-directed workday)
- Move the Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, teacher-directed workday to Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024
- Shift the first day of the second semester for students to Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, rather than Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024
- Change Aug. 16, 17, and 18, 2023, into professional development days for teachers (these dates were previously allocated as two student contact days and one teacher-only day)
- Move the first day of school from Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023, to Monday, Aug. 21, 2023
With these date changes, the overall goal is to “create some time so we can have our teachers as prepared as they can be, as consistent as they can be in learning the changes we’re trying to implement,” Qualman said on Jan. 25, adding that this needs to be a time when everyone can participate.
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As it stands, the guest teacher shortage and other factors can give teachers a “tough decision” when teacher trainings are held during the day, Qualman said.
“They either attend the training with uncertainty about whether or not their classroom is going to be covered or they don’t attend the training because they know that their room isn’t covered,” he said. “The result is that our attendance at training sessions is not great and if our attendance isn’t great, then we don’t have the fidelity in any of the changes we’re trying to implement.”
The result, he concluded, is a “snowball of stress” no matter what decision is made.
Adele Wilson, the district’s chief human resources officer, said on Feb. 22 that these changes are “net-neutral” for teachers — meaning it doesn’t impact the 186 contract days required in the agreement between the district and union — and didn’t require the district to add any minutes to days for students in order to stay in compliance with Colorado Department of Education requirements.
These changes went through a negotiation process between the district and the local teacher’s union, the Eagle County Education Association, on Wednesday, Feb. 15. According to Wilson, the negotiation teams came to a “really great consensus” after a short amount of time on these calendar changes.
The district’s board of education approved these changes at its Feb. 22 meeting. In order to officially go into effect, the union’s membership also has to vote to ratify these changes. According to Karen Kolibaba, the association’s president, this vote is expected to occur when school returns next week from February break.
In addition to the calendar changes, the negotiation team also proposed a few changes to the collective bargaining agreement to clarify what activities to earn professional development credit can be applied toward salary lane advancement.
The first change clarifies that if teachers receive additional compensation for a professional development opportunity, the credit hours cannot count toward lane advancement. The second makes clear that the PLCs (or professional learning communities) held on Wednesday mornings do count toward lane advancement. Wilson said that there are around 27 of these opportunities each year, which equates to a total of 2.25 credits.
The process of creating school calendars is done every few years, with the district convening a committee of administrators, parents and teachers to review school calendars three years at a time. The 2022-23, 2023-24 and 2024-25 school years were approved by the board of education in October 2021.
However, should the association ratify these most recent changes, they will only impact the 2023-24 calendar.
“This is for one year only,” Wilson said, adding that after the year, the district would “talk with our stakeholders, see how it went and see if we would want to maybe come back the following year and do it again.”