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Calendar Announcement from Superintendent Gdowski

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Calendar Announcement from Superintendent Gdowski

As you know, we've had a committee of staff members, parents and students meeting throughout the school year to review our existing school calendar format and develop additional options for consideration for the 2023-24 school year. The committee's work culminated in two calendars being shared with the community for feedback in a February survey that received more than 10,000 responses, including nearly 2,000 student responses. A summary of the survey results is linked here.  

Announcing the decision

The survey results show that our community supported both of the options put forward for consideration, with more than 60 percent of respondents stating they would somewhat or strongly support either option. When looking at the responses a little more closely, it became clear that the new calendar configuration – labeled as Calendar B – received a higher level of support from our families and staff than Calendar A, but only about 40 percent of students support this model. 

In light of Calendar B's potential to support more effective instruction for students, its greater level of strong support from parents and staff members compared to our existing calendar format, and my belief that we can address student reservations regarding the Option B format, I have informed the Board of Education of my decision to adopt Calendar B for the 2023-24 school year.

The 2023-24 calendar is linked here.

Key factors in this decision 

The factors that weighed most heavily in my decision are listed below.

  1. Supporting Student and Staff Attendance - One of our key reasons for forming the Calendar Study Committee was to address concerns about declining student attendance. In addition, we, like many employers, are experiencing staffing shortages for our permanent employees as well as our guest teachers. This has created a strain on our system.

    COVID and the cold, snowy winter have likely played some part in these continued reductions in attendance this year, but we hear consistently from both students and staff members that stress, anxiety and burnout are contributing significantly to these declines in attendance. The theory behind the week-long breaks in October and February in the new calendar is that students and staff will choose to take fewer mental health and recreation days if there are periodic, meaningful breaks in the course of the year. I'm hopeful that student and staff attendance data next year will validate this theory. These student and staff attendance challenges adversely affect our ability to optimize teaching and learning.

  2. Middle School Start Times - We have heard from our middle school families, staff and students that the current 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. school day is challenging for a variety of reasons. Calendar B removes the Wednesday early release structure and replaces it with a full student release day approximately once a month. Eliminating early release Wednesdays allows us to shorten the standard school days to provide more desirable school start and end times at the middle school level -- and at the same time slightly increase the instructional time provided to students at all levels during the course of the school year.

  3. Systemwide Alignment for Days Off - I've received frequent complaints from parents during my tenure regarding the inconsistent days off for elementary, middle and high schools. Parents with students at multiple levels often struggle in providing child care if their elementary child has a day off but their older children have a regular school day. Likewise, the time around parent/teacher conferences is often challenging for parents, as their elementary child may have three weekdays away from school; the middle school student may have two; and the high schooler may have a single day off.  Aligning the days that schools are in session across the district will reduce these inconsistencies and burdens.

  4. Increasing the Quantity of Quality Instructional Time - Our current early release Wednesday schedule poses challenges for the quality and quantity of instruction we provide on a weekly basis, especially at the secondary level. Class periods at the secondary level are reduced substantially on Wednesdays, which makes it challenging for educators to cover new material. In my conversations with students, including members of the Superintendent's Student Leadership Council, I've heard that students appreciate the break provided by an abbreviated school day on Wednesday, and that this is why so many were more supportive of Calendar A.

    I'm mindful of the stress, anxiety and pressure that our high school students in particular often experience. Given my discussions with educators here and in other districts that utilize a more traditional five full day structure, I am confident that educators will adjust the pace of instruction over a five day school week so that the quantity of quality instruction increases compared to our current structure, but without having five days of high-intensity, bell-to-bell instruction that would add further stress and anxiety for students. We are committed to preserving time for content review and catchup.

  5. Expanded Preschool Time and Transportation - We currently provide 12 hours of preschool to three and four year olds, with students attending every day of the week except Wednesday due to our early release schedule. Moving away from shortened Wednesdays allows us to serve students every day of the week and expand preschool class time to align with Colorado's new Universal Preschool thresholds of 10, 15 and 30 hours a week for eligible 3- and 4-year-olds. A common schedule across all five days of the week also makes it easier for us to provide adequate transportation to preschool students who require it, and will save the district $200,000 annually by reducing our need for third-party transportation services.

Next steps

The new calendar format is likely to provide a number of improvements for our system from our past practice, and the survey results show that this transition to a new format, while strongly supported by a large number of parents and staff members, also prompts concerns from many stakeholders as well. We are committed to mitigating significant issues of concern in this transition when feasible, both now and in future years as we make iterative changes to the calendar in the same manner that we have with our past calendar format. 

My hope is that those who are skeptical about this change, and those who are adamantly opposed to it, will join with us in doing all that we can to make it successful -- with success measured as improved student growth and achievement, both academically and in development of social competencies.


Chris Gdowski