Education

Committee studies extending fall break for Fayette students

Fayette County students could get a five-day fall break starting with the 2013-14 school year under an idea being studied by a committee.

The district's calendar committee of staff members and parents is weighing the potential advantages and disadvantages. But many questions remain, and the panel has not submitted a formal proposal to the Fayette County Board of Education, which would have to give final approval.

Superintendent Tom Shelton said he hoped a proposal could be brought up for a board vote as early as next month.

Fayette schools now take two days off around mid-October as a fall break. But the new idea would expand the time off to a full week in October each year, Shelton said.

The school district would continue to have a weeklong spring break and a long holiday break, even if an expanded fall break is approved, according to Shelton.

Many Kentucky school districts take a full week's break in the fall. But going that route would be a significant change for Fayette County. Shelton said central office officials don't remember the district ever taking more than two days off in the fall.

"The calendar committee is looking at several proposals," Shelton said. "They're still evaluating what they're ultimately going to recommend to the board.

"But the board will try to vote on it as early as possible to give people at least a year's notice of what is coming."

The Fayette board already has adopted a school calendar for 2012-13, so any change couldn't occur until the following school year.

The main rationale for a weeklong fall break would be to give families more options during the school year for planning trips and vacations, according to Shelton.

"The opponents' position, which is very valid, is that the fall break could hit in the middle of football season and marching-band competitions, and it hits during the postseason for fall sports and just as winter sports are starting up," Shelton said. "So, it could disrupt a lot of people's schedules."

Melissa Bacon, the school board's vice chair, noted that the district's traditional two-day fall break has served the schools well. Bacon also said she has received feedback from some of her constituents who fear that a five-day break in mid-October could interrupt the "momentum" of the school year.

Another consideration is that if three days are added to the fall break, they would have to be made up elsewhere. That would mean adding days during the school year or taking days away from other breaks.

Daviess County Public Schools, where Shelton was superintendent before coming to Lexington last year, went to a five-day fall break a few years ago. Shelton said the district shortened some three-day weekends during the school year and added a day at the end of the year.

"You have to make up the days somewhere," he said.

Members of the public may provide input and ideas on the calendar issue, Shelton said.

He said anyone who'd like to submit comments could do so by going to the superintendent's page on the district's Web site at FCPS.net, from which they'll be able to send an email.

Shelton said he sees positives and negatives to the fall-break possibility.

"There are trade-offs," he said. "If you go to a full week, you'd need to minimize the disruptions, and have plenty of time to plan your sports calendars and other activities to minimize problems.

"I think the key is to meet the community's needs and minimize the disruptions in the schools. I know everyone likes to get a snow day or a break from classes, but the other side of it is that there's something to be said for maintaining a school routine."

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