Warren County School Board gets first glance at calendar survey results

The Warren Sentinel
FRONT ROYAL – The Warren County School Board on Dec. 13 got to see the results of a recent survey of parents and teachers regarding the school calendar.

Out of 5,400 students, 393 returned surveys. Superintendent Pamela McInnis pointed out that many families have multiple children in the school system and those parents would have returned only one

“When you think about voter turnout results, I actually don’t think this is bad,” School Board member Kim Athey said.

Out of 400 surveys distributed to teachers, 247 were returned.

In addition to answering questions on their preferences about when the school year should begin, how long holiday breaks should be and the scheduling of teacher professional days, respondents were asked to make comments explaining their positions.

Teacher Pam Andrews told the School Board that reading the comments in the teacher survey was enlightening.

“I see things from the middle school perspective only,” Andrews said. “This is really eye-opening because you see - this is what (other teachers) are dealing with.”

Of the 393 parents who responded to the survey, 211 said they preferred a post-Labor Day start to school, while 139 said they preferred a pre-Labor Day start.

Asked to indicate the maximum number of weeks prior to Labor Day school should start, 248 parents said one week prior, while only 20 said classes should begin four weeks before the holiday.

One hundred sixty-seven parents said they preferred a three-day first week of school, but 139 said a five-day week would be better.

While crafting the questions, members of the School Board speculated that when classes started before Labor Day, many parents have elected to have their children begin classes after the holiday.

According to the survey, 67 of the 385 people who responded to that question have elected to have their children start school after Labor Day when classes began before the holiday.

More respondents – 257 - said they would prefer an entire week for spring break than the 130 parents who said spring break should be a long weekend.

Under the comments section, one parent commented, “Don’t like it when decision is made to extend spring break at the last minute.”

Another parent said starting classes in August is hard on kids at schools without air conditioning.

“We still have schools with no central air. Ressie Jeffries Elementary is the only school in the county without an air-conditioned gymnasium. Students with asthma and other health issues are put at risk when the school year includes the hotter days of August,” one person commented.

One area where teachers’ opinions differed from parents was when the school year should begin. More teachers – 139- said they preferred a pre-Labor Day start to school, while 80 of the 247 respondents preferred a post-Labor Day start.

But like parents, the highest number of teachers who responded – 140 – said school should start a maximum of one week prior to Labor Day. Only 14 teachers said school should start four weeks before Labor Day.

Asked how the school calendar should be adjusted if some or all inclement weather days are not used, 180 teachers said the school year should end earlier, while 66 favored expanding spring break. Only one teacher favored the option of expanding spring break and ending the school year earlier.

Teachers commented: “We go longer than almost all the other local counties,” and “If we did a longer year and had a fall break, too, we could alleviate teachers taking sick days because they need a break. It may help with students, too.”

School Board members agreed to discuss the survey further at a January work session so staff can draft a proposed calendar for members of the public to comment on at the Jan. 10 School Board meeting. Their goal is to approve next year’s calendar in February.
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