Three years ago, Maricopa Unified School District set up a three-year calendar that eased into the current modified schedule, which sees three two-week breaks.
A committee is now working on a four-year calendar that would let parents and students plan out their school years through spring 2024.
“This is the first time we’re doing four consecutive years,” Board member Joshua Judd said at Wednesday’s meeting of the governing board.
“The calendar obviously has a great impact upon not only our teachers and students but also our community,” said Human Resources Director Tom Beckett, who organized the committee.
He said having the committee craft the calendar was a move in the right direction. The committee worked to “uphold commitments” that were made in 2016 such as the two-week breaks for fall, winter and spring.
“We had made a pretty dramatic shift to move from a traditional calendar to a modified calendar,” Beckett said. “It was obviously not without some growing pangs. We actually took that first year to remain on the traditional calendar, and then on the second and third year we moved to the modified calendars.”
Maintaining the modified calendar was a “non-negotiable” element of the calendar planning.
The committee was formed after Beckett sent out a notice to MUSD employees asking for membership. He ended up with 34 staff members.
“We had a real strong turnout for this particular committee, and our meetings were well attended,” he said, explaining it included classified, certified and administrative staff members.
Board member Patti Coutre said she would like the committee to get feedback from stakeholders as well.
For the past three years, the school year has started on a Monday, but Beckett said teachers were concerned that makes for a long week for students transitioning from summer. On the draft calendars for the next four years, the start day is on a Thursday.
The proposed plan sees next school year starting July 23. The start date remains on that same Thursday the subsequent three years until it starts July 20 for the 2023-24 year.
Beckett said the committee had expected to create a five-year calendar, “but the fifth year got a little convoluted.” The holiday breaks were moving the start date even earlier in July, and a suggestion arose to cut a week from one of the other breaks.
Instead of making that decision, Beckett said the committee “just let it go” and opted for a four-year proposal.
Winter break already causes some concern on the proposed 2022-23 and 2023-24 calendars. Staff and students get New Year’s Day off during the school week, whether it falls during the school week or not. In 2023, it falls on a Sunday, and in 2024 it is on a Saturday.
To accommodate the vacation time, those two proposed calendars add one day to the winter break.
What has not yet been determined is the placement of parent-teacher conferences. Beckett said MUSD wants them to be effective but predictable and unified. “We have not had a lot of continuity with that.”