Camden Fairview School District Superintendent Johnny Embry hosted a special meeting on Thursday, January 12 to present and discuss the idea of a year-round school calendar. No other members of the Camden Fairview School Board attended the meeting, the purpose of which was only to provide information about year-round school to parents of students and district teachers and personnel.
Embry stated at the beginning of the meeting that the school district will not move away from the traditional calendar unless the plan has support from district teachers and personnel as well as the community.
With a year-round school schedule, students will not have vacation breaks lasting more than seven weeks. The calendar would provide more breaks throughout the school year. The first day of school would be determined by the district if the extended calendar went into effect.
The Wynn School District is currently using this calendar format. The number of days for students and personnel working remains the same as in a traditional calendar schedule. Two big differences are that summer break is only seven weeks instead of 11, and the number of staff/student breaks would rise from 24 to 40.
Embry said there are two reasons the school district is considering the change: to improve recruitment and retention of staff, and to mitigate students' summer learning loss.
The loss of experienced teachers and the inability to hire or keep teachers has been a significant concern for the school board and Embry, who said at the meeting last week teacher retention is at one of its worst points in CF history.
Embry cited fatigue as a possible reason for the district's inability to retain teachers, and suggested that a year-round school schedule could help provide emotional and mental stability for teachers.
Under the current guidelines of Arkansas Code Ann. 6-10-106, the earliest possible start date for the 2023-2024 school year is Monday, August 21.
Students of all grades are required to attend 178 days of schools while teachers are employed for 190 days each school year, including 10 professional development days.
Another element of the calendar that would stay the same is that grading periods can be no fewer than 40 days, but no more than 50 days. The school district would also have 10 holidays where the schools are closed. Finally, schools must have a minimum of six instructional hours per day or 30 instructional hours per week, which would stay intact with a year-round schedule.
Embry said a potential switch to an extended calendar would not affect the number of days the students will attend school, the number of days staff work or the salaries of teachers and school personnel.
There are four calendar options that school districts in the state of Arkansas can enact. CFSD has ruled out alternate and four-day week calendars based on the operation of the districts.
Information provided by Embry showed that a majority of district personnel and the community favors sticking to a traditional school calendar.
Embry noted that rumors that the district had decided to switch calendars had swirled on social media and said he held the meeting to address those rumors, stating that the decision lies in the hands of teachers and school personnel.
"It's very important not to get bogged down in what you see on Facebook because a lot of times people on Facebook don't have all of the facts. So when people have concerns, it's best to pick up the phone and call and a lot of times that doesn't happen, so tonight we saw this as an opportunity to sit down and talk to folks and get the truth out there and the facts about the challenges of developing school calendars and what our options are," Embry said.
Embry said after the meeting that he thought it went well.
"I think we had a very open, honest, frank discussion about the challenges with school calendars. It really hits people personally from where their families are and how it affect them. So I think it was a great night where everybody got a chance to ask questions and see really what's happening and hear the side of how it affects everything," he said.