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LISD considers shorter year

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

Lockhart Independent School District (LISD) parents seem to have little interest in a proposal to shorten the school year for 2005-2006.
Only two private citizens and two LISD employees attended a public hearing on Tuesday evening to hear a proposal about shortening the next school year by three days and changing the sta

rt of classes to Aug. 15, 2005.
The proposal, presented by Human Resources Director Theresa Ramirez came as a part of a working plan to align LISD curriculum to increase scores on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test.
“Mr. Rabe [the superintendent of education] is putting together a manual, and he thinks that it will require three days of intensive teacher training,” Ramirez said. “We”re going to ask the teachers to complete that training prior to the start of school and then give them three “waiver days” later in the year to make up for it.”
Under state mandate, the school year must be at least 180 days long. However, districts can apply for waivers to shorten the year under certain circumstances. LISD plans to apply for one such waiver to accommodate for the training.
One of the private citizens at the meeting suggested that the school year be extended, rather than taking three instructional days away from the students. Both LISD employees, one teacher and one counselor, agreed – to a certain extent.
“We need to keep the three days,” said Jim Thomas, a special education counselor. “If I had my way, we”d even add more.” Nonetheless, after Thomas calculated the estimated cost to paying teachers for the three additional days, the cost came to nearly $200,000, a sum the district is likely unable to pay.
“This is our way of trying to figure out how to give the teachers the training without the expense of the additional time,” Ramirez said. “We just can”t afford that.”
Although she said that true figures for the cost were not available, she agreed that Thomas”s estimate was reasonable.
Ramirez also presented supporting information for a second change to the LISD calendar, moving the start of school to Aug. 15, 2005. Under current state mandates, school districts cannot begin student instruction before Aug. 22.
The second change is meant to accommodate the additional three days. Without moving the start of the school year up, the school year would extend past the end of May and graduation ceremonies would be held on June 2.
Further, without the early start of classes, LISD would not be able to coordinate their grading periods so that the end of the second grading period would correspond with the beginning of the winter break.
“When I was teaching, I found that it required much more review time to get students ready for finals after Christmas break,” Ramirez said. Concerns were also raised about coordination with the ACC semester for students taking college credit courses and application deadlines for colleges.
With or without the early start, LISD will only be allowed two early release days next year.
Ramirez was careful to explain that the calendars presented at the hearing were merely draft documents, and that no official calendar will be available until April or May. She said that the district has another 60 days to submit the proposal to the state for approval. Until that time, parents or students with concerns can still contact the calendar committee at the LISD district offices.
The Texas Legislature could throw a wrench into the district”s plans. This session, a bill is before the legislature that would mandate that public schools cannot begin classes until after Labor Day, which falls on Sept. 5, 2005. If the legislation passes, the district”s request for the waiver will be moot.

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