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New calendars proposed for Eanes district

Austin American-Statesmen logo Austin American-Statesmen 11/28/2019 By By Suzanne Majors Davis Contributing writer, Austin American-Statesman
a group of people sitting at a desk: The Eanes school board considered new high school course offerings and district calendars for the upcoming school years on Nov. 19. [PHOTO BY SUZANNE MAJORS DAVIS] © PHOTO BY SUZANNE MAJORS DAVIS/statesman/Austin American-Statesman/TNS The Eanes school board considered new high school course offerings and district calendars for the upcoming school years on Nov. 19. [PHOTO BY SUZANNE MAJORS DAVIS]

Eanes Deputy Superintendent Jeff Arnett previewed new calendars for the next two school years during the Nov. 19 board meeting.

"The calendar is probably the one document or piece of communication that is on virtually every refrigerator ... with school age children in the community," he said. "So while we may not be able to please everyone, we want to do everything we can to make the calendar as close to perfect as possible. And I would like to commend a number of groups that contributed to the drafts."

Arnett gave particular thanks to the District Leadership Team, which approved the calendars.

Arnett also acknowledged parents who contributed to a survey, which asked their thoughts about having a week off at Thanksgiving last year. He said the committee looked at religious holidays because some in the community said "the district had not previously done a good enough job honoring those holidays, so we wanted to be respectful and build in some of those holidays ... as much as we possibly could in ... an unofficial way."

Principals also contributed to the final drafts, and Arnett said he appreciated their insights, which he expects will please a majority of people.

Here are some highlights of the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years:

— School will begin on a Wednesday in the third full week in August.

— Thanksgiving vacation will be a week long for both students and staff.

— The school year will end by Memorial Day for everyone.

— The district will reduce early release days for K-5 students to alleviate childcare concerns of working parents but still preserve staff development days.

— More effort will be made to honor major religious holidays.

— State required school minutes will be maintained or exceeded.

— Extra minutes will be built into the schedule where needed to absorb up to two inclement weather days.

In 2015 the Texas legislature passed a law changing the length of the public school year from 180 days to 75,600 minutes. This gave schools flexibility to adjust schedules to meet community needs. According to the law, a typical school day is 420 minutes. Minutes count from when the first school bell rings in the morning and when the last bell rings in the afternoon. Lunch, transition time and recess also count toward the required minutes.

While all schools will maintain their morning bell times, elementary schools will extend their days by 10 minutes. Doing so will build enough minutes into the calendar to allow for two inclement weather days without extending the school year. The high school and middle school schedules already extend well past the required minutes.

Another feature of the new calendars is the addition of more "no homework" days to accommodate those celebrating religious holidays.

The spring semester will end on the Wednesday before Memorial Day in the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years. Trustees will make a decision about approving these calendars during their Dec. 10 meeting.

New high school courses proposed

The board also reviewed proposed new classes for Westlake High School in the 2020-2021 school year. Departments explore potential new courses based on student interest and innovative trends.

New courses are discussed among campus administrators and department heads to seek approval before course proposals are written. Then, they're developed with teachers before being presented to the principal, who shares the proposals with the Curriculum Instruction and Assessment office and Campus Leadership Team. If reviews are positive, the courses are sent to the District Leadership Team for approval and then presented to the school board for approval.

Outgoing Associate Superintendent Todd Washburn, and Westlake High School Principal Steve Ramsey presented the following courses for consideration:

— Visualizing the Global Past and Present: Using Graphic Novels to Understand Our World for grades 10-12.

— Video Production for Social Media, for grades 9-12.

— Kinesiology, for grades 10-12.

Trustees will vote on these courses during their Dec. 10 meeting.

Washburn received well wishes on his departure from Eanes to become superintendent of the Dripping Springs school district.

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