FPS drops early release in February

Stephanie Backus/FULTON SUN photo: Rebecca Adams and Brittany Scott, both third grade teachers at Bartley Elementary, work during professional development time on Wednesday. Fulton students were being released from school early on Wednesdays so teachers could have the time for professional development. Because of the recent slew of snow days, this week was the last early release day of the year.

Stephanie Backus/FULTON SUN photo: Rebecca Adams and Brittany Scott, both third grade teachers at Bartley Elementary, work during professional development time on Wednesday. Fulton students were being released from school early on Wednesdays so teachers could have the time for professional development. Because of the recent slew of snow days, this week was the last early release day of the year.

After having already missed five full school days due to weather this year, Fulton Public Schools officials have decided not to do early-release Wednesdays in February.

“We really want to have more instruction time with the students because of snow days,” said Kathy Wright, FPS director of communications.

Superintendent Jacque Cowherd said the decision came after discussion during the administrators’ meeting on Jan. 14 — the most recent school day missed because of weather.

“We were talking about how to make up that instructional time. Our fear is that student testing takes place in early April, and we’ve used five snow days,” Cowherd said. “We really hate the fact we’re losing valuable professional development time for the teachers, but that (instructional) time is critical at this point leading up to the tests on which we are judged by the state.”

Although there were many snow days taken during the 2009-10 school year as well, Cowherd said the lost time was not as concentrated as it has been this year. He explained that it was easier to work the days back into the school calendar by doing things such as attending school on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

“If we hadn’t had this weather, we wouldn’t even be discussing this,” Cowherd said.

Asked why the district continues with early release days for part of the school year — the district was scheduled to attend full days on Wednesdays again starting in March — Cowherd said that “we still feel professional development helps all of our kids.”

“Today, for example, the teachers at all the schools were working in groups on grade levels,” he added. “I was at McIntire and Bartley, and by grade levels they were taking the diagnostic evaluations they use for all students and looking at kids’ performance and relating it back to grade-level expectations, which relates back to the MAP tests, and setting up strategies to work with kids who have deficiencies in certain areas.

“That concentrated time when teachers can work together is valuable.”

Wright emphasized that returning to full days on Wednesdays a month early does not serve as snow make up days, as students would have been attending school on those days anyway.

“We’re still adding make up days to the end of the year,” Wright said.

May 19, 20, 23, 24 and 25 are the make up days currently on the calendar. May 25 currently is scheduled as the last day of the 2010-11 school year.

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