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Calendar changes once again

Orchard Park parents, it's time to change your calendar one more time: May 26 will be a half day for children in elementary and middle school.

It had been scheduled as a day off for all students -- until a couple of weeks ago, when the School Board converted it to a class day for children in kindergarten to eighth grade. (May 26 was left as a student day off for high school students, which it remains.)

The back-and-forth with May 26 has been par for the course this year for Orchard Park, which has tweaked its 2005-06 calendar at least four times, to the frustration of some parents and staff. The changes have been driven by the need to make time to train teachers to score the new grades three through eight math and English assessments mandated this year under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The board in September added four half days -- two in January and one each in March and April -- to give teachers time to score the tests.

Two months later, the board revoked the half days in January and instead gave pupils in kindergarten to eighth grade a full day off in February to give teachers time to score the English tests.

The state decided to send out its scoring manuals later than expected, necessitating the change, said Assistant Superintendent Dennis Fitscher.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, the board took back the half days in March and April and established March 30 as a day off for elementary and middle school pupils, allowing time to score the math tests. The board at that time also changed May 26 to an attendance day for kindergarten through eighth grade.

Tuesday, though, the board granted a request from the administration to make May 26 a half day for the elementary and middle schools. Teachers of the lower grades have been short-changed this year on staff development time because of the time devoted to scoring the tests, officials said.

So on May 26, when children are released early, teachers will receive training on school safety; "Step Up to Writing," a new initiative in the district; and curriculum mapping.

The School Board this week approved the 2006-07 calendar. Officials are hoping to avoid another flurry of changes next year. The district has set aside two full days for teachers to devote to scoring the standardized tests.


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