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School board sets next year’s calendar

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By Mark Manicone

The Lancaster County School Board unanimously approved the 2018-19 school calendar this week, with first semester not ending until after winter break.
The board was not happy about that.
“All we would need is five days,” said board Chairman Bobby Parker. “I wish I had said this before, but talk to your legislators – we need them here.”
Parker was complaining about a state law that says schools cannot start earlier than the third Monday in August. This year, the third Monday is Aug. 20. With that limitation, there’s just no way to get in the required number of first-semester days before Christmas vacation.
In other years, the third Monday is earlier – two years ago it was Aug. 15 – and the first semester can end before the holidays. Last year, a special law allowed school to start early on Aug. 17 so that students could prepare to watch the solar eclipse. Because of that change, first semester ended before Christmas.
That’s better for students, school officials say. Students often need a lot of review when they come back to school in January after two weeks off and quickly have to jump-start their learning curves before taking first-semester exams.
“Students stay more focused in the Thanksgiving and Christmas period when exams are before the break,” said David Knight, public relations director for LCSD. “When you don’t have that big gap… it’s easier for students to remember the material and do well.”
Teachers also will be adversely affected by the semester change because they will have to focus on the exams directly after break, perhaps re-teaching some material, instead of launching into fresh coursework.
“Teachers have to spend more time reviewing material for exams, which gives them less instructional days,” Knight said.
The board chose between two schedule options that were prepared, both with exams after the holidays. The only big difference between the two plans was the length and starting date of winter break, Knight said.
The option the board chose had a longer winter break slotted from Dec. 22 until Jan. 6.

Follow reporter Mark Manicone on Twitter @mark_manicone or contact him at (803) 283-1152.