SSISD studying 'flex year' for high school

SSHS students who meet all requirements could be done with school by May 22

BY FAITH HUFFMAN, News-Telegram News Editor

March 11, 2008 - The Sulphur Springs school board Monday night approved acalendar for the 2008-2009 school year, which begins Aug. 20 and officially ends June 4, but, some high school students could be dismissed as early as May 22 under an optional flex year program being considered.

Sulphur Springs Independent School District trustees asked Sulphur Springs High School Principal John McCullough and curriculum coordinator Kristin Monk to continue developing a plan for an "optional flex year" after the pair discussed the plan Monday. The plan will be presented to the board at a later date for final approval, but the school administrators received unanimous approval from the board to continue working on it.

Only high school students would be affected by the flex year. Classes at all other campuses, including all elementary, early childhood and middle schools, would continue as usual until June 4.

If the optional flex year is approved, high school graduation could be held as early as May 22, and SSHS students who have passed all sections of the TAKS test, have a passing grade in their semester courses and do not have attendance issues will be released from school two weeks earlier than the rest of the student population.

Under the flex year program, all other high school students would be required to attend classes through June 4. High school students who had yet to pass any section of the TAKS test would attend classes focused on improving their exam scores.

Also, students who "have attendance issues" also would attend classes through June 4 to make up missed days. That could eliminate the need for Saturday schools offered to students to make up for excessive or extended absences beyond the state allotment.

The two weeks could also give high school students who narrowing missed passing -- those who have an average of between 65 and 69 for the semester in any course -- a chance to improve their grades. Doing so not only would allow them to pass the semester by the end of the year, but also could eliminate the need for some to attend summer school, McCullough noted.

The flex year would be a rewards incentive to encourage freshmen and sophomores along with upperclassmen to do their best on all assessments, as well as make an effort to be in class.

Students eligible for the two weeks off, but whose parents wish them to remain at school, would be able to make arrangemetns with school officials to do so. Those students would be assigned to classes during sessions and still required to report for classes.

The optional flex year plan will be presented to the school board at a later trustees meeting.

When asked by one board member about potential problems the plan, McCullough said their is the possibility of some parents and students viewing the two weeks at the end of the year as punishment of students who are not eligible for early dismissal. There is also the possibility of some students not understanding that attendance during the two-week period, if required, will be mandatory.

"I'm of the opinion [school's] about students. And if it's for the students, I'm all for it," McCullough said. "This is for the students, an opportunity for them to improve."

While the flex year plan has yet to be finalized, the rest of the calendar has been set for next year.

Teachers will report for duty on Aug. 18, one week before students.

Holidays for students and teachers will be:

-- Labor Day, Sept. 1, 2008

-- Fall Fest holiday, Sept. 19, 2008

-- Thanksgiving, Nov. 26-29, 2008

-- Christmas/winter break, Dec. 22, 2008-Jan. 2, 2009

-- Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 19, 2009

-- Spring break, March 16-20, 2009

-- April 10, 2009

-- Memorial Day, May 25, 2009.

It should be noted that May 25 and June 6 have been designated as bad weather days, which will be used in the event school has to be canceled one or more days due to bad weather during the school year.

Student holidays when staff will report for development activities are Jan. 5 and June 5.

Sept. 26, Oct. 10 and Oct. 31 have been designated as early release days, due to out-of-town activities.

Also, the district is submitting an "expedited waiver" to Texas Education Agency which allows for early dismissal on three days to allow teachers on elementary campuses to schedule required afternoon conferences with parents. Staff development and curriculum alignment activities will be held on other campuses during those times, according to administrators.

This calendar will allow students and teachers to complete the first semester just prior to the Christmas break. The first six weeks will span Aug. 25 through Oct. 3; the second six weeks grading period begins Oct. 6 and concludes Nov. 7; the third six weeks runs from Nov. 10-Dec. 19; the fourth six weeks is Jan. 6-Feb. 20; the fifth six-week period is Feb. 23-April 17; and the sixth and final grading period is April 20-June 4.

The school calendar, as well as a copy of the testing calendar, may be obtained from the school website at www.ssisd.net

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