LAFAYETTE — A proposed change to the Lafayette Parish school system’s calendar is intended to improve student performance while helping principals and teachers meet their schools’ needs, Superintendent Pat Cooper said Monday.
As part of a district turnaround plan to improve local schools, Cooper proposed changing the calendar to cut out teacher planning or development days spread throughout the year that take students out of the classroom.
Instead, Cooper is suggesting four nine-week sessions of uninterrupted instructional time that end with a weeklong intercession. During the weeklong breaks, principals will have the option to schedule tutoring sessions for students, faculty development or nothing, he said.
The turnaround plan also places accountability on principals to raise their schools’ performance ratings by a letter grade every two years or face contract termination.
“This gives them a lot more autonomy to make decisions with their faculty about how to reach that goal,” Cooper said.
The School Board approved the district turnaround plan, which included hundreds of recommendations such as the calendar change, at its April 18 meeting. The board will review the proposed calendar as an introduction item at its 5:30 p.m. Wednesday meeting.
Cooper said he does not plan to ask the board to take early action on the change, so a vote on the issue will be made at the board’s May 16 meeting. The change puts all schools on a nine-week grading period. Currently, some schools are on a six-week grading period.
This school year, students started classes on Aug. 15 and the last day of school is May 24.
If the proposed calendar for the 2012-2013 school year is approved, students would return to class on Aug. 10 and start their summer break on May 29. Cooper said the new schedule does not place any burden on parents for additional child care.
“The total number of days that parents are responsible for their children are the same,” the superintendent said. “They just come at a different time of the year.”
Pamela Charles-Bowser, parent of a Northside High School student, said she supports the change if students have — and take advantage of — the opportunity to improve low grades during the breaks. The break may also help reduce absences if students know they’ll have some down time to “reboot themselves” for the next academic session, she said.
Karen Martin, president of the Lafayette Parish Association of Educators, said the break would be a “welcome change for both students and teachers,” but questioned the effectiveness of the intercessions since only one of the weeklong breaks is scheduled outside of a holiday period.
“Basically, the way it looks it could be good, but our concern is how it’s tied into vacation when students will be on vacations, possibly with parents, and teachers will be with their families,” Martin said. “That may counteract with what those intercessions were for.”