The DeKalb County School District (DCSD) will switch to a balanced attendance calendar this fall even though surveys show a majority of parents are against the change.
The DeKalb County School Board voted Oct. 8 to move to a balanced school calendar, which contains the same 180 school days as its current calendar. However, the school year will begin on Aug. 5 and end May 29 and each semester includes an additional week of vacation.
Currently, City Schools of Decatur and Rockdale County Public Schools have a balanced calendar. DCSD Deputy Superintendent Kathleen Howe said the spring break for the balanced calendar begins the week of April 8, which brings it in line with other metro areas.
The district took public comments on the two calendars and a survey was made available until Sept. 29. DCSD spokeswoman Lillian Govus said the results of the survey and comments were reviewed by the calendar committee, which then made a calendar recommendation to Atkinson.
“The committee is made up of a parent, a teacher and a principal from all of the five districts in the school system,” Govus said. “It’s also made up of human resources representatives.”
Howe said, according to survey results, 68 percent of teachers voted in favor of a balanced calendar and 32 percent voted against it. Out of several thousand parents who were surveyed, Howe said, 59.4 voted in favor of the traditional calendar and 40.6 percent voted for the balanced calendar.
“I absolutely understand and support the concept of trying to lessen certain time away from school because you have that learning loss time—I think it may be more prevalent is some schools more than others—but I just don’t think cutting the summer by this particular amount really accomplishes that much,” said board member Nancy Jester, who voted against the calendar.
“I think we’re losing a lot of goodwill with the parent community about it, so that’s the trade-off for me and I can’t justify it in my mind,” Jester said.
Board member Don McChesney also voted against the calendar, stating during the meeting that he felt the board hadn’t been given adequate information to determine “in a timely fashion which way we ought to go.”
“I think at some point we’re going to need to reconsider year-round school,” McChesney told board members.
The calendar vote did not include early release days. Howe said the early-release days will be decided administratively but that approximately 70 percent of teachers were in favor of releasing students an hour early one day a week for professional development.
A copy of the new calendar is available on the district’s website at www.dekalb.k12.ga.us.