Seguin ISD could see some changes in its academic calendar, but not a year-round scenario, yet.
During a board workshop on Thursday, the district’s administration discussed with trustees potentially extending the start of the 2020-21 year by a week, while researching the option of possibly implementing an intersessional calendar as presented by the Texas Education Agency earlier this week.
The intersessional calendar, if implemented, would have students starting the year earlier and ending in mid- to late-June, with longer breaks in between, according to the TEA.
“The Texas Education has put out communication on the option for the school districts to do that (go year round),” Seguin ISD Superintendent Matthew Gutierrez told the board. “There are some school districts that are jumping on that and moving quickly. Many of those are smaller school districts. I’ve had the opportunity to be in collaboration with Region 20 superintendents and Bexar County superintendents and there seems to be a lot of appeal to go that direction. We’re not sharing a calendar that shows the year-round option or intersession option.”
Instead, Seguin ISD director of communications Sean Hoffmann shared with the board a modified calendar adapted from the academic calendar the board adopted at the Feb. 24 meeting.
“We got together as a team and looked and reviewed at trying to make calendar adjustments that would be best for our students, as well as try to keep our teachers happy because it will take some sacrifice on their part,” he said.
The main change in the calendar, if adopted, would have students starting a week earlier than scheduled, while teachers would come back two days sooner, Hoffmann said.
“What we are proposing is to have the first instructional day a week earlier on Aug. 13,” he said. “We’ve essentially bumped our teachers coming back two days. They were to come back on the 10th originally, now we’re looking at them coming back on Aug. 6 so that they have five days of mixed staff development or professional learning and work days in order to prepare for that first day of school.”
Smaller changes include switching the Oct. 23 student holiday/professional development day to a district holiday and extending the winter break by one day with students and staff coming back on Jan. 5 instead of Jan. 4.
The changes would add five additional instruction days for students, Hoffmann said.
These additional days would help if students were out again for an extended amount of time, Gutierrez said.
“Kids have lost months of instruction. We’re wanting to add some additional days soon. so that we can start to intervene and get these kids on track,” he said. “(Also) what if there is a big resurgence and we’re having to close and we lose out on instruction. Well, thankfully we have extra days we took advantage of in August.”
In discussing the intersessional calendar option, Gutierrez said he felt there are benefits to all students, but more specifically those who are economically disadvantaged.
But he’s not taking the discussion lightly and is looking to create a task force — one that includes business leaders and parents — to really look into the option and determine if it is the right move for Seguin, Gutierrez said.
“The hope would be to have a task force engage in some research …,” he said. “I would work with my team to identify business leaders, parents and staff. I do want to remind you that a task force needs to be small, because when a group is too big it is hard to be effective.”
The district is looking at ways to incorporate community input on calendars moving forward, Gutierrez said.
The goal for the task force is to look at the year-round option, how other districts implement it, and how it impacts their students’ achievements, and then possibly develop a skeleton calendar of what that could look like for the Seguin ISD.
The main thing for everyone to remember, though, is finding what works best for the students, Gutierrez said.
“We have to think about the needs our students have and it is evermore critical now, because our students that typically experience summer slide, this year they’re experiencing spring slide and summer slide,” he said. “We really need to take a hard, close look at a different way of learning. This is not just going to be a year of catch up next year. This is going to have an impact that is going to last for years and how do we make up ground with kids utilizing a calendar that can help us bridge that divide that is even bigger.”
The superintendent also has created a task force to reopen the district. He said their job is to look at all of the different scenarios — capacity caps, social distancing, potential closures — and try to anticipate solutions.