Several years ago, officials from the Petal School District began visiting the idea of instituting a different version of the school year calendar that would better accommodate students and staff across the district’s five schools.
After collecting feedback from key stakeholders, business owners, parents and other community members across the district, members of the district’s board of trustees have adopted a modified calendar for the 2022-23 school year that will feature a shorter summer break, but offer more breaks throughout the year. The number of student days on the 2022-23 school calendar will remain at the usual 180, and the total number of teacher days will remain the same at 187.
“We’ve been operating on the same calendar for decades and decades across our nation, and in our state in particular,” said Matt Dillon, superintendent of the Petal School District. “What we found through our conversations … is there was an interest, and then from there we really spent some time in studying with other districts across our nation that have done this for quite some time.
“We want to offer more breaks throughout the year for students, but also the opportunity for extra remediation and enrichment opportunities for our students. Then when we think about it from a staff perspective, this allows staff to have opportunities to have vacations not just in the summer, but they can go and have some time for themselves periodically throughout the year at designated times.”
One of the biggest differences in the upcoming calendar, which starts in July 2022, is the shortened summer break. While students returned to school via staggered start over August 3-4 in the 2021-22 school year, students will return via staggered start over July 22-25 for the upcoming school year.
“You think about summer learning laws, when you’re out of school for 10 or 11 weeks in the summer,” Dillon said. “There’s a lot of research out there as far as some students are not as active in the summer, reading books and things like that, and then teachers get them back in August and they have to work through that summer learning slide to try to get them back to where they left them in May.
“That poses as a little bit of a challenge, so looking at all of the different factors, it made a lot of sense for our district to shift to a modified school calendar.”
Under the new calendar, the First Nine Weeks will end on Sept. 23, 2022, followed by fall break from Sept. 26-30, 2022. Thanksgiving Break will be held from Nov. 21-25, 2022.
Dec. 16 will be another early release day, along with the end of the Second Nine Weeks and of the First Semester. Christmas Break will be held from Dec. 19-Jan. 4 for students, with teachers returning to school on Jan. 2, 2023.
Students will return to school on Jan. 4, followed by Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 16. Students will have a holiday on Feb. 20, 2023.
March 10 will mark the end of the Third Nine Weeks, followed by Spring Break from March 13-17.
Summer break will begin again on May 30, 2023.
In advance of the approval of the calendar, district officials sent out survey results to staff and parents, who overwhelmingly approved of the new measure. To help get it started, a Modified School Planning Calendar Team was put together more than a year ago, who conducted a site visit to a state that has been implementing a modified calendar for five or six years now.
“We’ve been doing a lot of research on getting all the pros and cons and looking under every stone that we can to make sure that we’re best prepared for this transition that’ll take place this upcoming school year.”
Although many have referred to the calendar as “year-round,” in actuality, it shifts days and event around while freeing up other spots for students and staff. For example, at the end of each nine weeks, there will be a two-week period, with one week being an off week and another week with enrichment and remediation opportunities for families who wish to participate in that.
During those periods, which are tentatively called intersessions, parents can choose to send their children to school for additional learning opportunities rather than keep them home for that week. Those periods will be held from October 3-7 and from March 20-24.
“Now with that, you’re not going to have the 10 or 11 weeks in the summer, but you’re still going to have a substantial amount of time over the summer,” Dillon said. “We understand that in our community, family time is so important, so we still wanted to give adequate time over the summer for families to be together, for kids to be kids, for families to travel, and do things they enjoy.
“So there will be a small reduction to what the summer looks like, but again, you’re going to gain these days at other times of the year. I think it’s going to help our attendance for both staff and students, which is going to be exciting because now you’re going to have other times that you can have time for yourself or to go on vacation, and not have to wait until summer to do that.”
The full school calendar can be found on the district’s website at www.petalschools.com.