Update: PBC schools nix half-days, give kids weeklong Thanksgiving break

A glimpse at the Palm Beach County school system’s proposed 2017-18 school calendar

Update: The revised calendar for the 2017-18 school year was approved by the School Board Wednesday, April 19. Goodbye, half days. Hello, a week of Thanksgiving holiday.

Palm Beach County’s public schools may be getting rid of all those half-days that send parents scrambling to readjust their schedules when their kids go to school late or come home early.

Instead, students and teachers could be getting a full five days off during the Thanksgiving holiday week.

The big changes are part of a proposed new school calendar approved by the school district’s calendar committee and presented to school board members Wednesday.

The board is scheduled to vote on the new calendar on April 19. If approved, it would jettison the county’s long-standing tradition of scheduling half-days throughout the year to give teachers time for training and professional development.

SEE THE PROPOSED CALENDAR HERE

This year, the county’s public schools scheduled seven half-days, in which high school students start late and elementary and middle students leave early.

Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa talks with students at West Riviera Elementary School. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

But Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa said the shortened days are detested by many parents, teachers and administrators, who find them disruptive and inefficient.

Students are more likely to skip school on those days, he said, and some schools dealt with the shortened days by scheduling 20-minute classes.

“What are you going to do in 20-minute periods?” Avossa said. “Over time, (the shortened days) may have lost their focus.”

Indeed, a school district analysis found that students were far more likely — sometimes more than twice as likely — to be absent on half-days than on regular days..

The revamped school calendar, which has been endorsed by the teachers union, turns those half-days into full days and offsets the extra time by closing school during the entire Thanksgiving holiday week.

Why do PBC schools have half-days anyway? It began at Gardens High, says McQuinn

The new calendar has one less school day (179 days instead of this year’s 180) but slightly more instructional time.

“It’s more consistent instructional time,” said Amity Schuyler, the school district’s communications chief, who oversaw the efforts to redraw the calendar.

Classes would begin Aug. 14 and end June 1 under the proposal.

As part of the plan, students would no longer have Veterans Day off, but officials say part of the day will be dedicated to lessons about the history of the nation’s military.

By reducing the school calendar by a day, school district officials estimate they will save $175,000 in gas and electricity costs. Schuyler said she thinks the weeklong Thanksgiving break could be a selling point for job candidates as the district looks to hire teachers.

If a day or two are lost to hurricane cancellations, the school district would likely not make up those days since the school year already includes more instructional time than the state requires.

But if a hurricanes caused extensive school cancellations, the schools would make up the lost time by adding on makeup days at the end of the school year, Schuyler said.

School Board Chairman Chuck Shaw cheered the plan, which he said “meets a lot of our needs.”

“A lot of the absenteeism that the schools experience on those half-days will go away,” he said.

PBC school district keeping an eye on the weather

Meteorologists aren’t the only ones in South Florida keeping an eye on that mass of bad weather in the tropics that could turn into something more over the weekend. Wednesday afternoon, parents received an email from the Palm Beach County School District that they too are watching.

Photo by Damon Higgins/ The Palm Beach Post
Photo by Damon Higgins/ The Palm Beach Post

The email noted:

We will continue to monitor the weather today and throughout the week, and will provide updates as needed through social media, the District’s website, and alerts through the ParentLink system. Follow the District on Twitter at @pbcsd or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pbcsd.

Parents and guardians will receive emergency phone calls or text messages using the contact information provided to their child’s school. District employees will receive emergency notifications based on the contact information provided in PeopleSoft.

Want to keep up with the weather before you find out school is cancelled or your weekend plans scuttled?

Follow The Post’s weather reporter Kim Miller on Twitter  @KMillerWeather and read her WeatherPlus blog.

 

Palm Beach County schools: Five stories this week you can’t miss

The St. Andrew's School in Boca Raton. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)
The St. Andrew’s School in Boca Raton.
(Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

A lot happened in Palm Beach County schools this week, from an assistant principal accused by students of sexual harassment to a principal being removed from her position.

Here are the top five stories you need to read in education from this week:

  1. St. Andrew’s School: Worker’s ‘boundary breaches’ prompted sex abuse probe

    1. St. Andrew’s School, embroiled in controversy over a secretive sex abuse inquiry, revealed Thursday that one of its employees had “breached student boundary policies” but said it was unaware of any students who had been sexually abused.
  2. Students say Pahokee High assistant principal sexually harassed them
    1. An assistant principal at Pahokee Middle-Senior High School faces termination after accusations that he groped a female student and asked another one to send him pictures of her legs.
  3. Palm Beach Lakes High principal reassigned from school
    1. Embattled Palm Beach Lakes High School Principal Cheryl McKeever has been transferred from the school after a year of acrimonious battles between her and many of the school’s teachers.
  4. Palm Beach County educator embellishes record, gets top Pittsburgh job

    1. After 18 years as a Palm Beach County school administrator, Anthony Hamlet won the top job in Pittsburgh’s public school system last month with a resume boasting a series of successes at turning around struggling campuses. But some of Hamlet’s claims about his track record in the county’s schools appear to be misstatements or exaggerations, The Palm Beach Post has found.
  5. Report: Palm Beach County schools need $1.2 billion in “critical” repairs

    1. It will cost Palm Beach County’s public school system nearly $1.2 billion to make all of the “critical” repairs needed for its growing backlog of deteriorating buildings and equipment at 196 school facilities, a new school district report concludes.

BREAKING: PBC Commission, school board members approve new sales tax plan

Palm Beach County Commissioners vote 5-2 to eliminate economic development incentives and construction projects at cultural institutions from the split of money collected by a proposed sales tax increase during a public hearing at the Palm Beach County Governmental Center in West Palm Beach, Florida on March 1, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Palm Beach County Commissioners vote 5-2 to eliminate economic development incentives and construction projects at cultural institutions from the split of money collected by a proposed sales tax increase during a public hearing at the Palm Beach County Governmental Center in West Palm Beach, Florida on March 1, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

During a joint meeting to smooth over differences, Palm Beach County commissioners and school board members agreed on a joint plan to raise the county’s 6-cent sales tax by a penny on the dollar.

Commissioners and school board members had previously agreed on the broad outlines of the tax increase, which would generate $2.7 billion over 10 years for repairs to roads, bridges, schools and county buildings. School board members expressed concern, however, when commissioners changed the plan, stripping out a combined $161 million in funding for cultural projects and for economic development incentives.

On Tuesday at Palm Beach State College’s Lake Worth campus, commissioners and school board members agreed to a revised plan, which includes a provision to end the tax early if $2.7 billion is generated earlier than 10 years.

What projects could be funded with from sales tax revenue?

Palm Beach County-wide projects, including county buildings

Municipalities’ projects, including roads and bridges

Palm Beach County schools, including repairing aging school buildings

>>RELATED: Full coverage of the proposed sales tax

Check with http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com later for more on this story.

-Wayne Washington