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Building a School Calendar: These are the Days of our Lives

Dear Families,

We are excited to share with you our School Calendar for next year!  We know that sometimes our process for choosing the days of the calendar and the times of the school day can seem like a mystery.  Some of you might wonder how and why we have made the decisions we have made regarding the school calendar and I would like to share with you the thinking behind our decisions.  One of the greatest “pros” of being an independent charter school is that we have lots of freedom and autonomy to make the decisions that are right for our students, staff, and families.

How does GRCDC made decisions about the school calendar?

  1. State Requirements:  The Michigan Department of Education sets parameters for the the required number of school days and instructional minutes each student must receive.  All schools must follow this
  2. Kent Intermediate School District Guidance– All schools that are part of the KISD must adhere to certain guidelines around timing and length of vacations and other types of days off.
  3. Teaching and Learning- This is the MOST important factor we take into consideration after we follow all the requirements from the state and ISD.  We ask ourselves: what does our calendar need to look like in order to meet our goal for an equitable, high quality, life affirming education for all students?  What does our day need to look like? Each week? Each quarter? The year?
  4. Teacher Feedback- The calendar was carefully reviewed by our A-Team (a committee that acts as our central office) and our Teacher Council.  Rounds of feedback and edits were made to ensure we have a calendar that provides ample time for planning and preparation, teacher collaboration, student learning, and rest/respite throughout the year.
  5. GRPS Calendar- As much as possible, we try to align our beginning/end of year and vacations with GRPS, knowing that many families have children both in GRCDC and GRPS.  This is not possible in every instance, but we do try in the ways that it makes sense.

 

Features of the 2019-2020 calendar:

  • Daily Change:  Our school day will start 15 minutes later and end 10 minutes later than this year.  This is to allow for many teacher and staff meetings to take place in the morning, rather than afternoon.  Our teachers prefer this blend of meeting times, as mornings can often be better for doing the heavy thinking work of collaborative planning, book studies, and reflective meetings.

 

  • Other Changes:

 

    • Half Days:  Our families and staff shared that ½ days can sometimes be a burden for families.  We shifted our calendar from having one ½ day each month, to only having 6 ½ days over the course of the school year.  4 of those are half days for staff and students at strategic vacation times where we were seeing a lot early sign outs.   Also, our ½ days will include a regular lunch schedule, which will preserve instructional time, predictable nutrition, and routines.
    • Teacher Work Days with no students:  Each quarter, we have committed to a working day off for teachers with no students.  The purpose of these days is for teachers to have time to work on class records and assessments and engage in long term planning with their teaching partners.  As we have moved into quarterly report cards with the same content scope and sequence for each grade level teacher, teachers need time to work together on their lesson and unit plans.
    • Parent Teacher Conferences: We moved these up a couple of weeks so that instead of coming at the END of the quarter, they come more in the middle.  This will allow teachers and parents to focus on building connections and understanding a students’ current level of functioning in comparison to grade level standards, rather than focusing on “grades”

All in all, I want you to know that NO decisions regarding our calendar were taken lightly.  We know that TIME is one of the most precious resources for all of us. How we use our limited time dictates the level of energy we have, the growth we can do, and the connections that we all build.  If you have any questions, please let me know. You can reach me at heynel@childdiscoverycenter.org or find me almost every morning “at the gate”!

Sincerely yours,

Lisa