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Early Release Days – Why?

December 29, 2017

Early-Release-Day

As many of you know, Saline Schools is in its second year of the “early release” schedule. On the six designated Wednesdays throughout the school year, students are released from school two hours early. Staff uses the remainder of the time for professional learning.  Some parents and community members question the value of the early release days and have asked about the merit during some of the Community Conversations regarding the proposed pre-Labor Day start to the 2018-2019 school year.  It has become evident that the value of these days related to the Saline Area Schools focus on academic excellence is not fully understood.

The early release days are part of the Saline Area Schools’  professional development strategy.  Saline is proud of its outstanding teachers and staff. As in all businesses, professionals must commit to continuous improvement throughout the life of their careers. In the past, professional learning opportunities took place in the few days before the start of school year.  The result was a tight opening school schedule that did not provide extended time for staff development, deep conversation, and focused study. Moving large-scale professional development away from the start of the school year meant scheduling a full day off for students.

Based on Michigan legislative action in 2015, schools must have a 180-day student schedule commencing with the 2016-2017 school year.  At the time of the statutory change, Saline Area Schools had a 175-day student schedule. Devising a plan to incorporate more school days for students and also include blocks of time for teacher improvement was no small task.

In planning for the 2016-2017 schedule, by adding “Early Release” days, Saline was able to improve the professional learning environment and ensure that the school calendar ended before July 1. These early release days function much like half-days, allowing schools to count them as “school days”  for the students, without extending the school year. For teachers and  the organization, the early release days offer a larger block of time for staff to work collaboratively with colleagues on the strategic work of the District.

The Early Release days provide many benefits to the organization. First, by embedding professional development into the school calendar, we can avoid extending the school year into late June. Second, two-hour blocks of time allow teaching colleagues to work together toward a common goal with vigor and intent. Finally, the message, vision, and purpose of the SAS Strategic Framework and goals are communicated consistently amongst all stakeholders. In that way, students in every building are receiving like-minded, purposeful instruction.

We realize that, unlike other professions, the school schedule impacts families in meaningful ways.  We do try to balance decisions regarding what is optimal for our professional success and what works well for most families.

Have thoughts or questions about early release days or the school calendar? Click here and share thoughts.

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