The senior class of 2016 at NRHEG is a special group of kids. They are a motivated, determined class, and I have many great memories of them as students. There are some very bright kids ready to go make their mark on the world, but more importantly, there are a great many hard-working individuals who will always give it their best, no matter the situation.
I can remember kids on all parts of the scale, as far as proficiency in the English classroom goes, working every day and asking questions and seeking help to get better. Sometimes they’d help each other, but I also recall a number of people seeking extra help until they saw that light go on. Once that happened, they were off and running, never looking back at their previous struggles. Every grade has kids like this, but the class of 2016 seemed to have an extraordinary number of them.
And a nicer group of people is hard to find. Even today, when you encounter one of them, you’ll always see a smile and get a friendly greeting. Whatever their chosen paths, it’s easy to see so many of them being successful and finding happiness, while impacting the world around them and making us proud that they’re from our towns.
Here’s another area they probably won’t even say boo about: the 2016-2017 school calendar. Most don’t care anymore since it doesn’t really impact them, but if they do look, the first thing they’ll notice is that we’re back to seniors having a couple less school days than K-11. Graduation will be June 4, 2017, but the last day of school for everyone except seniors is June 6. Why the change back to this? Let’s explore the complexities of school calendar creation.
A couple years ago, we responded to staff who felt it was important for seniors to be here as long as everyone else. This is important in so many high school classes that are mixed with other grades. If you have a curriculum that is important, then it’s important for the seniors just as much as the juniors, etc. It’s hard to motivate underclassmen to do work that the seniors don’t have to worry about anymore.
And that was fine until next year. Based on the current teachers’ contract, we will have 174 student contact days in 2016-2017. We can’t start before Labor Day, so we knew right away that September 6, 2016, would be the first day of school. After that, it’s how to fit the other 173 days in and try to get done by the beginning of June, while still leaving time for some breaks and workshop days.
One of the first things the calendar committee looks at is Christmas. It falls on a Sunday this year. Hmm. That’s a tricky one. It was decided to start break on December 23 and not return until January 3. Part of that deals with 12-month staff having January 2 as a holiday since New Year’s Day also falls on Sunday. Plus, we recognize some of the travels and other plans that revolve around these two holidays. Thus, Christmas break is 11 days long.
It’s easy to build in other breaks that are inviolable. It’s a given that Thanksgiving and the Friday after that holiday are non-school days. MEA break falls on October 20-21. Around here, we’ve felt that Good Friday should always be a non-school day. So now where do you go after those days are marked off?
My long-time readers know I’m in favor of trying to make up weather days within the school year rather than tack them on at the end. That’s worked okay the last couple of years. We have two of those built in next year: February 17 and April 17. The first is part of a four-day weekend around Presidents Day and the second is Easter Monday. It’s never ideal, but still preferable to June. Some people will plan trips, and that’s okay. For most of us, there might be an adjustment to some appointments, but we’ll be around.
There’s also the job of trying to make each quarter about the same length and adding workshops, in-service time, and parent-teacher conferences. Teachers work 12 more days than the students are here, so that’s all got to be figured out. There are some changes to parent-teacher conferences again, as we seek the best chances to meet with parents.
The elementary staff will continue to have conferences twice a year, but will finish them off with eight-hour marathons in November and February. This is an attempt to make some times accessible during the day and the evening so people with varying work schedules can all have a chance to come in to school.
The secondary staff is trying something a little different. We will have mid-term conferences in October, February, and April. That way there is still time to make a plan if a student is struggling. However, 2nd quarter conferences have always been difficult since they fall in December. That month has concerts and extracurricular events every night except Wednesdays, which are traditionally church nights for many. We’ve decided to host an open house at the end of August instead, an evening which gives parents a chance to come in and meet the teachers of their students and get prepared for the year. Some folks have commented that’s the most important part of conferences to them, just meeting and getting to know the educators.
So while this year’s seniors sail off into the sunset and perhaps look at this and wonder why they had to attend more than next year’s seniors, we can all take a deep breath and welcome summer, at least until September 6.
Word of the Week: This week’s word is natant, which means swimming or floating, as in, “The kids planned to be natant for most of the summer.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!