The Mansfield School Committee approved the 2012-2013 schedule (shown to the right) 5-0 at last week’s meeting.
Superintendent of Mansfield Public Schools Brenda Hodges said that this year, the schedule was made to be a bit more flexible. Dates that are most likely not to change are put in this version of the calendar and other dates may be added in later. This is to allow adjustments to be made throughout the school year without causing too much confusion.
“If there are adjustments there that need to be made our parents don’t follow the adjustments,” she said. “So what we’ve tried to do is put some minimal dates that we think are pretty firm and then we will add to this through the individual school calendar… and add the appropriate [dates] to the district calendar. That’s why we’ve scaled back a bit, so that we don’t have too many different versions out there.”
The schedule includes tentative school committee meetings, early release days, five built-in snow days and the normally observed holidays.
“We did put in a proposed start of the school year with five snow days built in,” Hodges said. “The state department does not look at the calendar as being official if it does not have five snow days built-in beyond what could be the end of the school year.”
The early release days were put in for professional teacher development, which is used at least in the high school for the .
“It’s been critical to have the days this year to get as far as we have,” MHS principal Michael Connolly said. “We already have mapped out as many days as possible. [We need to get] the whole staff to look at those reports and agree on everything that’s in there and then vote on it. It’s a substantial amount of debate.”
Hodges said that this year, instead of half-days there will be early release days, which have a longer classroom time, but still allow for the professional development.
“We felt that [professional development] could get more out of early release days and it still gives students more classroom time,” Hodges said. “Instead of releasing a half a day, we release an hour and a half early, so that it’s more instructional time.”
School committee member Kiera O’Neil said that parents have told her that the early release days are troublesome for their children, as schedules give many students more unsupervised time after school.
“They just don’t like it,” O’Neil said. “They’ve got some very valid reasons; daycare issues, ten days where we’ve got middle school kids running around the town extra early, unsupervised time; I’m not saying not to do this anymore… but that’s definitely an issue.”
Connolly said that the NEASC process is extremely important for the high school, as colleges do not recognize a high school that does not have the NEASC accreditation.
“I think an hour and a half to go over these six or seven standards reports; it’s going to be tough. We have to have that work done by January  to ship it out to get the ball rolling for that in spring. I know it’s a burden and I respect that, I just think for us we’ve used all our time this year to study ourselves and look at ourselves in the mirror. We need a lot of time in the future to actually work on the improvements that we’re going to need to work on that comes out in the self study.”
Hodges said that she has also heard complaints on early release day issues, but said that, unfortunately, that’s the nature of the issue. Schools simply do not have other times that they can take to do professional development.
“Unlike business, who can do this kind of after hours, we really can’t do most of ours after hours,” she said. “Even though our staff, I have to say, voluntarily do a lot of things after hours. We have small groups, small professional learning committees we call them, that do work together but there are huge initiatives that have to happen and this is how we’re doing that.”
Aside from the NEASC accreditation, the school district as a whole is also working on a new math program this year and common core standards during the professional development days.