LAFAYETTE — Lafayette Parish students are out of school next week for fall break, the first intersession in the new nine-week school calendar — but not all schools will be closed.
“We have a wide variety of things going on,” said Phyllis Landry, district director of academics. “At the schools and at the district level, we’re offering lots of professional development opportunities for teachers.”
The intersession period was designed to give students and staff a break between the start of school and Thanksgiving while offering principals the option of offering help to struggling students or other student support services if needed during the break, said Lafayette Parish Schools Superintendent Pat Cooper.
“I’ve used this in other districts and the teachers absolutely loved it,” Cooper said. “If you start school in August, it’s a long way to Thanksgiving, especially now with all the pressure that’s on teachers. It’s got to be one of the hardest jobs.”
The new school calendar is one of the changes included in the district’s turnaround plan — which Cooper said will improve student achievement. The plan provides principals more discretion in how they manage their campus. The plan also mandates that principals boost their state accountability letter grade by one grade over the next two years.
During the break, principals had the discretion of planning what they’d like, including doing nothing, Cooper said.
“It’s strictly up to them,” Cooper said. “We haven’t hovered over them to say, ‘What are you doing?’ That was intentional to give them the freedom. They’re ultimately responsible for getting their letter grades up.”
Landry said some principals have arranged for student “camps” or other enrichment activities, and parent-teacher conferences will take place on some campuses. She added that some principals opted to close their campuses for this break, but have other activities planned in future break periods.
The next nine-week session is interrupted by both the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday breaks. The spring break is March 25-29, during the Easter holiday.
Some schools will use the break for planning time. At Acadian Middle, the administrative team will review student test data in preparation for the upcoming nine-week grading period, said Alvin Lasseigne, principal.
“We’re looking at first quarter issues based on (test data) and will get everything ready for after the break,” Lasseigne said. “In the future we may offer a tutoring blitz for students.”
Lasseigne said he felt teachers could use some time off given a new school year filled with changes on both the district and state level.
“This is a break for them,” he said.
Funding issues may have prevented some principals from scheduling student activities on their campuses. Principals had to find money in their budgets to cover any expenses associated with staffing any student programs during the break.
Funding issues limited activity at David Thibodaux STEM Magnet Academy during the break, but teachers have volunteered their time to help prepare for new environmental science curriculum that will be offered at the school in January and meet with potential partners to explore students’ dual enrollment options, Principal Jeff Debetaz said.
The school enrolls students in grades 6-12.
Next week, teachers will help move equipment and related materials from the environmental sciences academy formerly offered at Northside High to Thibodaux, he said.
He said he and some staff will also be meeting with the Academy of Interactive Entertainment, a technical training school focused on game design, to explore dual enrollment opportunities for students.
“We’re doing what we need to do for next year,” Debetaz said. “Our teachers that are coming are coming on their time.”
He added that in the future if funding becomes available, he’d likely offer attendance make-up days for students or offer an “Einstein” camp or other activities that the school previously offered to students on Saturdays or during the summer.