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Forsyth school system poised to add fall break in 2015-16
District would take off from Sept. 26-Oct. 4
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Forsyth County News

FORSYTH COUNTY — Forsyth County students may have their first fall break next year to alleviate the lack of holidays in the first semester. And no, officials aren’t talking about Thanksgiving week.

The add-on would be the week of Sept. 28, so the Forsyth County school system would be closed from Sept. 26-Oct. 4, according to the proposed 2015-16 calendar presented to the school board during its meeting Thursday.

While the draft is just that — a final version will be voted on at the board’s meeting Nov. 20 — a majority of those who returned a survey favored the dates.

That included 91 percent of 576 staff members and 86 percent of 93 students who were asked for input, according to district documents.

With school set to start Aug. 6, students would have the break seven weeks into the school year, with only Labor Day off in between. Without a fall break — as was the case this year — 15 weeks pass until Thanksgiving.

“It’s been my experience that once you get to seven or eight weeks, students and teachers both need breaks,” said Superintendent Jeff Bearden. “In other school districts I worked in, we also noticed that discipline referrals increased and student attendance went down after a long stretch of time.”

The two semesters usually have an even number of days, but the break would give the first semester 85 days, while putting the second at 95.

Teachers preferred a longer second semester to accommodate testing, said Jennifer Caracciolo, spokeswoman for the district.

A long weekend in February was created from the absence of the two inclement weather days that were taken away due to the pioneering use of an online learning system.

While teachers and students expressed overwhelming support for the proposed new break, parents and other community members were not as convinced.

Sixty-eight percent of 30 community members and 64 percent of 1,230 parents were in favor of the calendar. While that’s still a majority, their primary concerns were a shortened summer break and the financial burden presented to families who must find something for children to do if they can’t take off work.

“I realize that this creates some challenges for some parents,” Bearden said. “But educationally, I think that this is a great calendar for students and teachers.

“This calendar is strong because it preserves the summer break, offers a full week for a fall break and full week for Thanksgiving, as well as [the] traditional winter break, a week of spring break and a long weekend in February, all by getting out of school before Memorial Day.”

Caracciolo said without the fall break, the school year would end May 20, 2016. The last day of school, pending approval, is May 27, which fits the goal of finishing before Memorial Day.

This is also the second year that the full 190-day calendar has been restored after the school board, among others around the state, gave teachers and staff furlough days to offset the 2008 recession.