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At least 16 Guilford County schools are set to start earlier next school year than others
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At least 16 Guilford County schools are set to start earlier next school year than others

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GREENSBORO — Sixteen Guilford County Schools that are working to boost prior low performance on state tests are expected to offer four more days than most schools in the district next school year.

The district also expects seven or eight more schools to soon become eligible to participate.

District leaders announced this week that its “restart” schools would begin the year on August 16 and end on June 9.

That’s in contrast to the district’s new proposed calendar for traditional schools, which would have most schools start seven days later, on August 23rd, and end six days earlier, on June 3 (This paragraph has updated to correct an error. See correction at the bottom of this story. 1:15 p.m. 05/14/21) 

District administrators were interested in an early start for all kindergarteners, sixth graders and ninth graders next school year, but decided to set the idea aside after losing hope that the legislature would pass a bill this year granting districts more local control over school start and end dates.

The sixteen schools now set to start August 16 are Bessemer Elementary, Bluford Elementary, Cone Elementary, Fairview Elementary, Falkener Elementary, Foust Elementary, Frazier Elementary, Gillespie Park Elementary, Vandalia Elementary, Washington Montessori, Wiley Elementary, Ferndale Middle, Hairston Middle, Jackson Middle, Northeast Middle and Welborn Middle.

The district has also applied for “restart” status for eight other schools: Alderman Elementary, Montlieu Elementary, Oak View Elementary, Sedgefield Elementary, Eastern Middle, Swann Middle, Western Middle and Smith High.

Chief Academic Officer Whitney Oakley said in an email Thursday that at least seven of those schools will also join the others in starting next school year on Aug. 16, presuming the state approves their applications. The district expects to hear back in the next few weeks.

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The one possible exception, Oakley said, would be Smith High School. Since it’s the only high school in the group, she wrote, leaders are still discussing what calendar would work best.

Restart schools are schools that have had multiple years in a row of low performance on state tests. They have applied for and received flexibility on certain rules as part of their attempts to improve.

That includes flexibility in areas like the calendar and how money is spent on teacher salaries. Oakley said the schools would use their funding flexibility to cover the cost of the additional days.

The restart schools calendar includes 179 student days and 220 teacher work days, compared with 175 student days and 215 teacher work days in the proposed traditional schools calendar.

Oakley said the district expects both the additional student days and the additional professional development days to benefit the restart schools after two school years disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Restart schools have more beginning teachers, including teachers coming into the profession without an education degree. District officials believe additional training days would be especially beneficial to them.

Meanwhile, on the days the schools are offering the professional training to teachers, they will also be able to offer tutoring for students, Oakley said.

The special flexibility for restart schools means the school board does not need to vote on their calendars. Board members will, however, vote to approve calendars for the district’s traditional schools, early and middle colleges, academies at Kearns and Smith, and extended-year schools.

Those are available on the district’s website.

The board expects to hold a specially called meeting to approve the calendars on June 1. The district welcomes feedback on the calendar proposals via email to gcscomments@gcsnc.com or by U.S. mail to Policy Comments, Guilford County Schools, 712 N. Eugene St., Greensboro, NC 27401.

Correction: School would start on August 23 under the district's proposed calendar for traditional schools. That information was incorrect in an earlier version of this story. 

Contact Jessie Pounds at 336-373-7002 and follow @JessiePounds on Twitter.

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