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Currituck schools’ early-release days to become full days off next year 

Sometimes the new school calendar doesn’t cause much discussion. If the current calendar is working, the new calendar often mimics it. 

However, one of the options for the 2018-19 school year called for the elementary and middle schools to somewhat follow the high school calendars with regard to early release Fridays. 

And that did spark conversation at the Board of Education’s latest meeting and work session, held at the end of March instead of early April because of the Easter/Spring break. 

Both Currituck County High School and J.P. Knapp Early College High School have half-days every Friday. The remainder of the day is used for professional development, meeting with students, teachers’ meetings, etc. 

Calendar option number two for 2018-19 gave elementary and middle school students a half-day every other Friday, and the same options for staff as high school personnel. 

Another option, option one, pretty much followed the current calendar, with six less early release days than option two. 

A survey was posted for staff and parents and 439 responded, with the Friday early release option getting 290 votes (mostly from staff). But, with those votes, concern was noted about additional child-care arrangements working families would have to address. 

Early release Fridays have always been factored into the calendar for JPKECHS and were started this school year at CCHS. Board member Dwan Craft said the early release Fridays have made a big difference for high school teachers and that the elementary and middle school teachers should have the same opportunity. She went on point out the extra hours those teachers put in to keep up with the work load. 

Board member Karen Etheridge noted that the students are the main goal and the board should listen to what the teachers want, if not, good teachers will go elsewhere, which has direct impact on students. 

Board member Will Crodick suggested that teachers can be helped by supplying more resources, and not have to rely on finding outside organizations to provide school supplies for students. Crodick did not favor the early release Fridays, commenting that he did not think two half-days of school are as productive as one full day. 

“We can’t continue to put teachers last if we want to put students first,” added board member Janet Rose, who also has seen teachers still working in the classroom well into the evening. She said that daycare providers pick up children at the school on other early release days, and suggested the possibility of an afterschool program on-campus. While students would leave early every-other Friday, staff remains for the full day, including teacher assistants who might provide tutoring for students on those half-days. 

However, an after-school program on campus would also necessitate additional buses, and board chairman Dr. Bill Dobney suggested that would impact the district’s efficiency rating — which would mean less state funding. 

Crodick added that he had that same concern when the half-days were introduced at CCHS. 

Dobney also pointed out that of about 6,000 parents in the district only 209 responded to the survey (and favored option one). 

So, to avoid the bus issues, school superintendent Mark Stefanik suggested using option one for the elementary and middle schools, but to give teachers more time, change the early release days to full days off for students and required work days for teachers. Stefanik pointed out that the full days instead of half-days will give teachers the same number of professional hours as the every-other Friday early release option. 

Some early release days prior to a holiday will remain, including Aug. 31, Dec. 19, April 19, May 24 and the last day of school June 7. However, five other days that had been early release, are now full days off for students and mandatory work days for staff, including Sept. 19, Oct. 17, Jan. 30, Feb. 27 and March 27. 

Both Rose and Etheridge voted against the option, but after the superintendent detailed the change, Etheridge said she was OK with it.