President Booker testifies on changing school calendars

The following is the text of President Booker's statement before the Senate Study Committee on Evaluating the School Year Calendar of Georgia's Public Schools:

"Good afternoon, my name is Charlotte Booker, President of the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE) representing educators and Education Support Professionals across the state.

Thank you Senator Gooch and committee members for this opportunity to bring testimony on the school year calendar issue.

Overall it is our goal to ensure a system of success and sustainability for students, educators, and schools. All public education stakeholders must place student needs at the center of all efforts. We believe this is best achieved when there is input from a specific community –its parent-teacher organizations, businesses, governmental bodies and citizenry.

To that end, GAE supports local boards of education setting school calendars after they have received input from their communities at large. School calendars should be based around the needs of the students and the stakeholders of that particular school system. Each individual school calendar will differ according to the needs and decisions made by its citizens.

From my own personal experience, some school systems have a balanced calendar where frequent, and much needed, breaks are afforded to both students and school employees. For example, my last school system, Rockdale County, has a fall break as well as a spring break and  Holiday breaks. This gives students time for remediation. Teachers will oftentimes work with students on a one-to-one basis or in small groups. It also gives teachers time to plan for the upcoming academic year, complete paperwork, research, make parent contacts and construct activities for new and interesting ways to reinforce academic standards. Starting the school year earlier in Rockdale County allows the system to build in those breaks.

I am not advocating that this is the only school calendar that works for student achievement, but this is the choice that Rockdale County made for its students. Every other county should have the same opportunity to decide what works best for their students’ achievement.

Parents oftentimes do plan vacations around a school system’s calendar which could expand beyond the month of August. This gives parents more flexibility in their planning.

Thus as stated, GAE believes that setting school calendars should remain under local control."