School district to limit early-dismissal days

Instead, students and faculty will enjoy more days off from school.
Wednesday, August 8, 2007 | 2:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:47 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

COLUMBIA — Students in Columbia Public Schools will have more days off and fewer early-dismissal days in the coming year.

“We had gotten a significant amount of feedback from staff and parents saying they were concerned about loss of instruction from so many early-out days,” said Lynn Barnett, assistant superintendent for student support services. “Teachers were rushed through things and didn’t have enough time to teach full lessons."

This school year, there will be two early-out days, down from eight last year. The days have been consolidated so that teachers have three more full in-service days, for a total of four from the time class begins. They also have three in-service days preceding the start of school.

The dates on which students will be out of school for teacher in-service days are Oct. 5, Nov. 2, Jan. 18 and March 7.

“We try to attach those days to a weekend so that children and families have three-day weekends, and staff members have a full day to really focus on curriculum,” Barnett said.

Each school has a different plan on how to use those days.

Kathy Ritter, who was recently named principal at Rock Bridge High School, said these extra days for faculty will help the school as a whole.

“We have in place PLTs — professional learning teams, groups of teachers who meet and discuss teaching strategies, data, assessment and really talk and share ideas about how to best teach the students,” Ritter said.

Rock Bridge faculty have been meeting in PLTs for several years now, but Ritter said the extra time will give them some more flexibility and time in the year to have these meetings.

At Russell Boulevard Elementary, Principal Edward Schumacher said that the exact use of the extra days has not been decided, but that the school’s focus is on school improvement and professional growth.

“Instructional strategy for gender is something we’ve been spending time on and will continue,” Schumacher said. “We’re also focusing on assessment for learning, which is a district initiative that focuses on student learning.”

With schools gearing up for a new school year, Schumacher is excited about more opportunities for teachers to work together and move forward.

“There’s a lot more to the school year than just the instructional process and working with kids day-to-day,” he said. “Working with teachers to plan, and having the opportunity to discuss student achievement is what makes us a better school.”

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