At its April 8 meeting, the District 65 School Board continued its discussion of the calendar for the 2013-14 school year. Some of the guiding principles for the calendar are to coordinate, to the extent possible, with Evanston Township High School. In addition, the calendar preserves seven half-days, called “school-improvement days,” for professional development.

State law requires students to attend school a minimum of 176 days, and teachers to attend 180 days. The calendar provides 176 school days. Seven half-days – the school improvement days – are scheduled on Wednesdays once a month between October and May (except March) and counted as a day for purposes of meeting the 176 day requirement.

The District is able to count the half-days as full days because its normal instructional time per day is 350 minutes, 50 more than the State minimum, and the District may “bank” the added instructional time to count the half-days as full-days, said Pat Markham, director of communications.

In addition to the 176 school days, teachers attend two “teacher institute days” before school begins and two parent teacher conference days during the school year in order to get to the 180 day minimum for teachers. On the seven school improvement days, teachers teach in the morning and attend professional development meetings in the afternoon. The school improvement days provide an opportunity to bring large groups of teachers by grade level or content area together, said Ms. Markham.

At a public hearing in March, several parents expressed concerns that it was difficult to arrange for child care services when their children were released from school early on the seven school improvement days. On April 8, Ms. Markham listed several concepts that administrators had considered to address those concerns, including fully utilizing available space in the School Age Child Care program, working with an outside vendor to determine the feasibility of providing structured programing, and expanding Evanston Swims to include more schools.

Ms. Markham reported there were drawbacks and limitations with each option. The Board asked the administration to continue exploring the options for a viable solution.

Ms. Markham reported that the District could also apply for a waiver from the Illinois legislature to combine four of the one-half days into two full days and reduce the total number of attendance days from 176 to 174. Administrators said they preferred having the seven school improvement days because it distributed professional development throughout the year. There did not appear to be Board support for obtaining a waiver.

For the 2013-14 school year, the start date and the winter and spring break dates are coordinated with ETHS, said Ms. Markham. A draft of a calendar for the 2014-15 school year also coordinates these dates.

The Board is scheduled to approve the calendar at its next meeting.