By John Schaffner

Those attending the “Focus on Education” presentation by Fulton County Schools Superintendent Dr. Cindy Loe at the April 17 Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce Bagels & Business meeting were awakened to changes being discussed that would cut the school year calendar from 180 to 175 days for students beginning next year.

Dr. Loe told the group of about 100 SS/PC members, guests, city officials and school administrators that action taken by the state legislature this past year allows for flexibility from the previously mandated 180-day student school year, but students still have to attend for the same number of hours.

She said all of the calendar options being discussed involve a 175-day student school year.

The variation is in how those days would be structured in order to account for the same student “minutes” as are now observed in 180 days. The calendar options all call for 190 teacher days.

One option adds 11 minutes to each of the student school days by converting the present “early release days” — a half day of school for students and a half-day planning period for teachers — into five off days for students.

“One of the things we have found is that by the time the students leave and the teachers get in their professional learning groups that day is really a bit off-kilter,” Dr. Loe explained. “We haven’t been able to have as much professional learning for our teachers.”

She said the result of this would be “175 days, 11 instructional minutes longer.”

She said the board would make a decision on this proposal, and presumably any others, before making a decision on the calendars for the next two school years.

The superintendant said the five fewer student days save transportation costs and state school five days later, “which a number of our parents also have requested. In addition, there are some parents who have requested that students be off the whole week at Thanksgiving and a longer Christmas break,”

She urged those in the audience to let the school board know their thoughts on the calendar options, since they are up for review right now.