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School district makes changes to its calendar again

Many Orchard Park parents will need to shuffle their child care plans for a few days this spring, as the district changed its calendar to make time for teachers to score state-mandated math tests.

March 30 was scheduled to be a regular day of classes, but the School Board this week signed off on a request to give elementary and middle school pupils the day off. The high school, though, will hold classes that day.

The change on March 30 for kindergarten through eighth-grade pupils means their teachers will have time in the morning to learn how to score the math tests and a few hours in the afternoon to score them, according to Assistant Superintendent Dennis Fitscher.

Along with the change for March 30, the half days that had been under consideration for March 31 and April 3 will now be full days of instruction. The half days were not listed on the school calendar, but some parents may have received written notices, Fitscher said.

This year, all public school pupils in New York in grades three to eight have to take standardized math and English tests, which are required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. For the past few years, the tests were given only in grades four and eight.

Schools across the state are struggling to score a huge volume of tests in a short period of time. Orchard Park decided to enlist the help of all its elementary and middle school teachers, including those who teach special areas such as gym and those who teach grades as early as kindergarten.

Having more teachers work on the grading enables the district to plow through the work in a shorter time. It also means canceling school for pupils, because it would cost too much to hire substitutes to cover so many classes, officials say.

In November, the School Board agreed to trade two half days at the end of January for a full day off for pupils Thursday.

"I feel ridiculous constantly asking you to change these calendars," Superintendent Joan D. Thomas told the School Board this week, but she said the changes were needed.

The board this week also changed May 26, which had been scheduled as a student day off districtwide, to an attendance day for elementary and middle schools. It will remain as a staff development day at the high school, meaning students will not have classes.

There could still be one more change in store for this year's calendar, Fitscher said. Administrators are considering making May 26 a half day for elementary and middle schools. It would remain a day off at the high school.

"We are going to revisit that and see if we could have early release" for kindergarten through eighth grade, he said.


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