Students in the Ambridge Area School District could be cutting vacation short and starting classes earlier next year if the board votes to approve a proposed school calendar.
District administrators said last week that many school districts in Beaver and Allegheny counties are looking to start the 2015-16 school year sooner in order to get more teaching time in before standardized testing begins.
Originally, he said students were to start on Monday, Aug. 24, but it only provided for two snow days built into the calendar. The committee added two snow days, which pushed the start of school back. The committee based the draft on calendars provided by the Beaver Valley Intermediate Unit, he said.
This school year, students started classes on Aug. 25. The district ended up canceling school five days, with one being a snow make-up day.
The state requires that schools are in session for 180 days. Mineard said the proposed calendar meets the guidelines for instructional hours.
“The reason we’re starting earlier is, one, the Keystones," Mineard said. "The Keystones are actually a final exam now. It’s the last two weeks of May this year so we want to have as much instruction as possible to cover our students.”
Another reason, Mineard said, is eighth-grade students have to take the PSSAs and if they are taking Algebra I, they will have to take the Keystone I exams in April.
Looking at all of the testing and everything going on, the committee decided an extra week of instruction was needed for students to give them the best opportunity to perform on exams.
Mineard said Memorial Day week always falls around the school picnic on the first Wednesday, and there is usually a week of school left after that.
“Now we are done prior to Memorial Day. We do not have to worry about having that extra week of school and we’re maximizing our instruction.”
Students who are involved in extracurricular activities typically would be back and practicing before the first day of school.
But Barry King, director of special programs, said football and band students would miss a couple of practices and two a days based on the proposed calendar.
School board member Robert Keber said football students will actually miss two weeks of two a days. The first official WPIAL practice date is Aug. 17 for fall sports, though there is a climatazation for football a week prior, he said.
Board member Roger Kowal asked administrators to check what other school districts are doing before making a decision.
“I don’t want to put our kids at a disadvantage as far as extracurricular activities go because we’re starting early,” Kowal said.
Like Ambridge Connection on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and sign up for our weekly newsletter.