School board explains calendar changes for 2023-24 school year
BY AMBER THIBODAUX
ALACHUA COUNTY, Fla. – The Alachua County School Board approved the 2023-2024 school calendar during the February 7 school board meeting, where the motion to adopt the calendar was passed 4-0, with Member Sarah Rockwell absent.
Before the vote took place, Chair Tina Certain asked Jennie Wise, who is Chief of Teaching and Learning for Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS), to explain the thought process behind the calendar committee’s final draft that was submitted to the board for approval. Specifically, Certain asked Wise to address the dates for spring break and why the committee chose to begin school on August 10, which, as Certain pointed out, falls on a Thursday and “seems late” in the week to her.
Certain also pointed out that the district’s spring break differs from that of the University of Florida and Santa Fe College, despite “so much positive feedback on the two [spring] breaks aligning now for people who work at our institutions here, having the kids out of school at the same time.”
Wise said that the state of Florida set the date of August 10 as the earliest date school is allowed to begin, and then she addressed the board with the following explanation:
“Because of the state assessment calendar, which has set aside the entire month of May for our end-of-year state assessment, we work really hard to get all of our instructional days in, prior to that May assessment window. So if we don’t start by August 10, it makes it hard to get all of our school days in so that we ensure that our students have had the most opportunity for those precious instructional minutes before the end-of-the-year testing.”
Wise also said that the school calendar committee had “piloted” the 2023-2024 dates for spring break and had received both positive and “critical” feedback – with some committee members saying they wanted ACPS’ spring break to fall after the University of Florida. Wise explained that while ACPS has an 18-week semester, UF’s semester only lasts 15 weeks: “UF used to have a 16-week semester, but now they have a 15-week semester, and each institution wanted its spring break to fall in the middle of the semester, much like our educators do–which for next year put their spring break the week of March 2. For our students and educators that isn’t the middle of our semester, and it makes that trek from the end of spring break to the end of the year and state assessments kind of a long hard spell,” Wise said.
Wise said the school district’s spring break will not align with UF or Santa Fe going forward.
The county also added an additional “flex day” for this upcoming school year, resulting in a total of three instructional make-up days in case of a hurricane or other emergency, as notated below:
ACPS shared a link to the new calendar on its public Facebook page, where some parents left comments or complaints regarding the specific flex days chosen for the upcoming year:
In the fall of 2022, school was canceled for three days district-wide as a precaution ahead of Hurricane Ian and Tropical Storm Nicole. The first flex day was utilized on Tuesday, January 3, and the others will be on Monday, February 20, and Monday, March 27. Because the district had only allotted two flex days for the 2022-2023 calendar year, it had to add a third school day and also add 10 minutes to each elementary Wednesday school session to make up for the rest of the lost instructional time.
A link to the full ACPS 2023-2024 school calendar can be found here.
Scheduling spring break at a different time than UF and Santa Fe is GENIUS (sarcasm). How many people employed by UF and Santa Fe have children in public school? Is it about control? Is that it? These school board officers are not looking at the best interest of the students.
Keep shaking… Did you miss the part about, “So if we don’t start by August 10, it makes it hard to get all of our school days in so that we ensure that our students have had the most opportunity for those precious instructional minutes before the end-of-the-year testing?”
It’s not enough that the entire city revolves around the university, now some want the public school system to as well.
If I remember correctly, years ago it was determined to be better if the public school kids were not having Spring Break that coincides with college aged kids. I don’t think it’s appropriate for 20+ year olds looking to dip their stick in some 14 year old who dresses to look like she’s 21 years old. Seems like the safety of our children played a role in that decision.
While I see your point, spring breaks that coincide make it easier for some families to plan to spend quality time together.
I could not agree with you more.
They need flex days for student mob violence, too.