Each year by the spring, school districts have typically released their approved academic calendar for the upcoming school year. The release of the new academic calendar is an event that is highly anticipated by families and district staff as it provides information needed to plan ahead for the next year. While the release of the approved calendar is an “event”, your annual work to develop the calendar should be a process that includes voices, perspectives and input from all of your district stakeholders.
To ensure a successful and collaborative academic calendar development process, consider the following steps.
- Select a point person or department to facilitate the process. In larger districts, the Chief of Staff may be best positioned for the job, while in most districts the Director of Communications may serve as the ideal individual to connect with all stakeholders and gather input.
- Consider assigning the work to consider calendar options to a district committee that has representation from all campuses, departments and parents. Members of this committee can share possible calendar options and ideas and solicit feedback from their respective groups. Ultimately, this committee of stakeholders may vote on calendar options – or one preferred calendar – for the leadership team to recommend to your Board of Trustees.
- Educate your community on what is required in the annual academic calendar. Based on your state education code, there may be items, like number of teacher contract days, student days or classroom instruction time, that are required by law. It’s important for your stakeholders to know what’s required in the calendar versus what are items that can be added as a community desire.
- Respect the unique nature of your school district community. Identify components of a calendar that are widely desired in your community and make it clear that as you build calendar options, these calendar “must-haves” will be prioritized. This will provide good will with your community as you seek to maintain trust and collaboration.
- As your point person builds calendar options for your committee to consider, seek to gather as much feedback from your community on the front end of the work as possible. This can be achieved by putting out a districtwide survey to all parents or staff.
- Based on your own community’s desires and needs, try to strike the appropriate balance between classroom instruction time, professional development time, and “work” time. Label these days on your calendar accordingly. Your teachers and staff will appreciate knowing well in advance if a student holiday is designated as a day for district/campus professional development, or if it’s a day they can catch up on grading or other work in their classroom.
- After your committee has narrowed the draft calendar options down to two or three, put out a final call for comments before making a final recommendation to your Board of Trustees.
- During the development process, ensure transparency by making survey data public on your district website and providing at least one update during a meeting of your Board of Trustees. Finally, when you’re ready to present a recommended calendar option to your Board, do it during a regular monthly meeting.
Historically, the typical development of an academic calendar was performed by a handful of individuals inside of the school district, without much public input or involvement. As the needs of students, families and teachers evolve, utilizing a collaborative, stakeholder-involved process to develop your annual academic calendar will serve as a benefit to your schools and community and ensure that the needs of multiple individuals are met. In the end, you will find that your academic calendar will be enhanced by public input and your stakeholders will be thankful for the collaboration and transparency of your process.