School division approves 2020-2021 calendar

Published 10:20 pm Thursday, January 16, 2020

The 2020-2021 school year for Suffolk Public Schools will begin Sept. 8 and finish June 18, 2021, under a new calendar recently adopted by the School Board.

School will once again start the day after Labor Day, after the board opted last September not to consider starting school prior to that point. More than 56 percent of the 5,188 people who answered a survey favored starting school after Labor Day, while just 39 percent wanted to start before then.

Dr. LaToya Harrison, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, said the guiding principles in forming the calendar included 10 days of pre-service for new teachers and seven days of pre-service for returning teachers, 180 instructional days and that the first day of school must be on the first Tuesday after Labor Day.

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Election Day in November, according to those principles, should be used either as staff development, clerical or a combination of both.

Harrison said most public school divisions have an informal agreement to schedule their spring breaks similarly. For 2020-2021, with Easter on April 4, 2021, spring break will be April 5-9, 2021.

Eight makeup days were built into the calendar for the next school year, Harrison said. The School Board would determine any additional makeup days.

Board member Sherri Story, who was the lone vote against starting school after Labor Day, asked about the possibility of ending the school year for staff on Friday, June 18, rather than the following Monday, June 21.

“It would seem tough to ask teachers to come back on a Monday – finish on a Friday, on the 18th, and you’re not off for the summer, but you have to come back for one day on a Monday,” Story said.

She asked if there was a way for teachers to end their school year at the same time as students, or students end on Thursday, June 17 with teachers ending Friday, June 18.

Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III said there were long conversations about that topic, and that it came down to Veterans Day, or coming back on a Monday.

Story asked if working on the Presidents Day holiday — Feb. 15, 2021 — could be an option. She wanted to explore anything that would allow teachers to finish their school year on the same Friday.

“One of the things that we looked at is what the region was also doing,” Gordon said. “And we were considering child care for those Suffolk Public Schools employees that don’t live in the city, and that was something that the Calendar Committee made pretty apparent that we wanted to have some regional consistency in the development of our calendar, mainly for that child care expense.”

In response to a question from board vice chairwoman Dr. Judith Brooks-Buck, Harrison and Gordon said it is possible that teachers would not have to work the entire Monday, June 18 — considered a clerical day — but that is one of those unwritten rules, they said, and dependent on the discretion of the principals at each school.

Gordon said that with the 180-day, 990-hour requirement for elementary school students, “we are still looking at some additional options, but right now, this is the cleanest one that keeps us consistent with the rest of the region.”

The Calendar Committee members were parents, teachers, school administrators, a bus driver representative, a representative from the Suffolk Education Association and a representative from the school administrative office.

This year, Suffolk Public Schools started Sept. 3, the day after Labor Day, with the last day of school June 12.

Previously, Virginia school divisions had to apply for a waiver from the Virginia Department of Education, but the new law no longer requires that. School divisions must still meet the 180-school day minimum, however.

Key Calendar Dates

Sept. 8, 2020 — First Day of School

Nov. 3, 2020 — Virtual Clerical Day (Election Day)

Nov. 20, 2020 — Parent/Teacher Conference Day (early dismissal for students)

Nov. 25-27, 2020 — Thanksgiving holiday

Dec. 21, 2020 — Jan. 4, 2021 – Winter Break

Feb. 12, 2021 — Parent/Teacher Conference Day (no school for students)

March 9, 2021 — Professional Learning Day (early dismissal for students)

April 5-9, 2021 — Spring Break

June 12, 2021 — Graduation Ceremonies

June 18, 2021 — Last Day of School for students

June 21, 2021 — Teacher Clerical Day (no school for students)