Fort Bend ISD’s board of trustees voted Jan. 19 to approve the 2016-17 academic calendar with 176 days, or 77,440 instructional minutes.
All grade levels under the approved calendar will see an additional 20 minutes per day, giving the district greater flexibility in the event of missed days.
A district committee spent months crafting a calendar to comply with House Bill 2610, which requires at least 75,600 minutes of instruction time, including recess and intermissions, according to FBISD officials. The previous FBISD calendar had 73,500 minutes, or five days short of the new legal minimum. The state previously required a minimum of 180 days of instruction.
“Do we think, though, that’s in line with what’s instructionally sound and what’s a best practice in our community and our greater community? Yes, it’s in line,” Deputy Superintendent Christie Whitbeck said. “It’s not an unreasonable expectation.”
The first day of school will be Aug. 22 and the last day will be June 2. A group will determine at a later date how to divide the additional 20 minutes, but board members said they were confident the time could be allotted efficiently.
“If you’ve got to be there, you can do something with 20 minutes,” trustee Dave Rosenthal said, adding that an extended lunch period was one possibility.
The new calendar maintains a Fort Bend County Fair holiday, a weeklong Thanksgiving break and two weeks for the winter break as well as built-in time for two inclement weather days.
The calendar committee sent out surveys to staff, parents and other stakeholders to gauge feedback on the plan. The committee received responses from 712 people. Attitudes were closely split among the responses, with 278 respondents supporting the new calendar, 267 opposing it and 167 remaining neutral, Whitbeck said.
Trustees discussed whether the proposed calendar was sufficient even if the district did not request waivers at the end of the school year for missed time. Waivers are good for 420 minutes of missed instructional time—210 minutes for half days— and are intended for schools closed longer than the two built-in bad weather days. Waivers cannot be used if they do not bring a district’s total instructional time to the required 75,600 minutes.
“Basically, it’s there for inclement weather, health and safety related or other issues,” Texas Education Agency spokesperson DeEtta Culbertson said.