Saturday, March 25, 2023

NHCSB votes to approve unpopular calendar

Board members Stephanie Kraybill and Hugh McManus debate two calendar options at the Jan. 31 meeting. (Brenna Flanagan/Port City Daily)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Backed into a corner, the New Hanover County School Board voted on a calendar that ends the first semester after the December break — a move they have been trying to avoid for months. 

Members of the public, many advocating on behalf of high schoolers that take college classes and exams, have expressed for months they wanted a calendar that would end the first semester before students were released for holiday break. After being presented with three other calendar options and voting it down once before, Calendar A, was adopted in a 5-2 vote on Tuesday; Stephanie Walker and Melissa Mason dissented.

READ MORE: ‘The public is going to lynch us’: Tensions come to head over NHCS calendar

In December, the calendar committee voted to send calendars A and B before the school board. The calendar committee — comprising teachers, principals, parents and one student — preferred Calendar B. They argued it had balanced semesters, adequate teacher workdays and ended the first semester before break. The only problem: It violated state law. 

The school board voted down option A in January and mandated the calendar committee try again. Two weeks later, the committee met to discuss calendars C and D — both ending the first term in December, both complying with state law. To accomplish that, the former had a 19-day difference between semesters. The latter extended the school day up to 15 minutes and required the district to count recess in its daily hour totals to meet state standards. 

Calendar D was too radical an option for the committee, so it chose to send both A and C back to the board. They noted Calendar A was now the preferred choice and said they couldn’t look past the negative consequences — unbalanced semesters, inadequate teacher workdays, breaking state law — over the other options. 

After the board voted in a special meeting Tuesday, passing Calendar A, one member spoke out.

“Ignoring these parents is a wrong thing to do,” Walker said. 

She was countered by Josie Barnhart, who cited the board’s recent resolution asking the state for more calendar flexibility as proof the board is hearing them.

“For all of you out there, we are listening,” Barnhart said. “It is not a matter of one size fits all.”

Barnhart’s argument was the 19-day difference between semesters in Calendar C was unfair to students that would get less instructional time. She described the move as “leveraging high-achieving students over our low-achieving students.” 

Mason said if students were made to take exams after break, more time would be spent reviewing for exams. 

“That’s reteaching of the skill and to me that’s instructional time lost,” Mason said.

Walker concurred.

“If we’re talking about the quality over the quantity of our days, then I think the best option is C,” Walker said.  

Mason mentioned the district could be more flexible in its current block schedule by opting for an A-day, B-day schedule or another format. The idea was also brought up by Eugene Ashley High School principal Patrick McCarty at the calendar committee meeting.

Kraybill said there was not enough time to review those suggestions, saying the board put itself in “crunch land.” 

Despite the calendar conflict that built over three months, board members agreed the district needs the North Carolina General Assembly to grant more local control over calendar-making. However, board member Hugh McManus said during the meeting they have not heard back from local legislators on the progress of legislation to change the law.

“We have no choice but to go with A,” McManus said. 

Reach journalist Brenna Flanagan at 

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