Students and staff at the Flagler Schools will have one less day of instruction under the 2017-18 calendar adopted by the school board at its March 21 meeting. The adjustment also impacts school start and end times, adding 15 minutes to the day for middle and high school students and pushing the start and end times back 10 minutes at elementary schools.
In a split 3-2 vote, the board voted to approve a 179-day calendar, with school board chair Trevor Tucker and board members Andy Dance and Janet McDonald favoring the measure; Colleen Conklin and Maria Barbosa voted against it.
"I still have some reservations at how this will all happen at the elementary schools," McDonald acknowledged, adding, however, that she believed it was in the best interest of the district and hoped the additional classroom time would be used effectively.
The Flagler County School District is currently built around a 180-day calendar. At the school board's suggestion, a committee was charged last fall with studying a 179-day option in order to build in potential buffer time should there be any emergency closures like those experienced with Hurricane Matthew. It was that committee's recommendation, and Superintendent Jacob Oliva's, that the change be made.
Under the new calendar, students begin classes on Aug. 10 and end the 2017-18 school year on May 25, 2018. It also allows for the possibility of three hurricane makeup days.
With one less calendar day, however, more time must be added into the daily schedule of secondary-level students to meet the state's requirement for 900 hours of instruction. Because the district's transportation plan is based on a tiered system, it was decided that the only way to add 15 minutes per day for middle and high school students and to avoid the cost of additional buses would be to have elementary schools start and end 10 minutes later. The times vary according to school.
The board has wrangled around the issue of the school calendar for the last several months. In February, the 179-day option came up for a vote but Dance wanted to table it, saying he wasn't against the idea but that the district should take the time to inform the public about the change to bell times before a vote came back up.
At the March 21 meeting, Dance said he hoped the calendar issue would also prompt future discussion about the idea of block scheduling and possibly adding more teacher planning time back into the school day.
Conklin said she didn't support the 179-day calendar because with the district considering other issues that could affect scheduling, such as rezoning, "There will be tremendous impact for most, if not everyone."
Barbosa agreed with Conklin that keeping the calendar the way it was for now made more sense.