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Edgecombe to weigh school calendar

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Friday, February 2, 2018

TARBORO — The central office staff of Edgecombe County Public Schools is examining the possibility of adjusting next year’s school schedule to allow for first semester exams to take place before next year’s Christmas break.

School board member William Ellis broached the issue at a recent school board meeting.

“I have had a lot of feedback on the school calendar,” Ellis said. “One issue is looking at the possibility of having exams before Christmas. I know we are locked into what the legislature has done in the past in taking away the flexibility of the districts, but there are the other school districts like Johnston County that are looking into this issue. They are planning to have exams before Christmas next year.”

Most educators feel that having exams before Christmas break would help students perform better because the information would be fresher in their minds. The pre-Christmas exam plan also would allow students to focus on new material after the break rather than spending time reviewing old material for exams.

Susan Hoke, communications coordinator for Edgecombe County Public Schools, is on the committee that creates the new calendar presented to the school board for each academic year and said the committee has looked at the issue in the past and is willing to examine it again.

“I have studied the Johnston County school calendar,” Hoke said. “They will be starting at the same time as we do because of the state law. But their first semester is significantly shorter than second semester. And they are pushing their Christmas break until right before Christmas. Most of the Christmas break will be taken after Christmas.”

Hoke said it may be possible to forge the calendar in a way that would allow for testing before Christmas break, but it would have disadvantages.

“There are ways we can gain some days, such as doing away with the planning day we usually have in October and doing away with the Wednesday off before Thanksgiving. This would mean that we could have exams before Christmas. But we have been having long Christmas breaks here for years, and we are not sure if the elementary and middle school parents are going to be OK with us changing this because of high school exams,” Hoke said.

Hoke said she is concerned that the plan would mean that the first semester would be significantly shorter than the second semester. However, she admitted that the snowy weather conditions this January and last January had, in reality, shortened first semester anyway.

Dr. Valerie Bridges, superintendent of Edgecombe County Public Schools, said it is a good suggestion

“Now, the students have a long break before their final exams and kids come back and we have bad weather, so it is definitely something to be considered,” Bridges said.

Hoke said she feels it would be better to encourage state legislators to fix the issue.

“The best solution would be if the state legislature would change the law so we could start earlier. That would be ideal,” Hoke said. “And I have seen a a lot of online petitions floating around asking people to call their state legislature to change this. All of this came about because of concerns of people in Dare County about their tourism, which is crazy.”

Ellis said he feels the time is right to look at ways to address the issue at the district level.

“There has been enough feedback from the community that I really think we should explore this,” Ellis said.

Bridges agreed.

“I think this is definitely worth a conversation,” Bridges said.

The school board will examine the issue in more detail at a future board meeting.

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