Superintendent Dr. Brad Breedlove (CFE)

With the recent release of Pender County Schools calendar options for years 2024-25 and 2025-26, doubts have arisen regarding the efficacy of increasing the number of school days for students, asserting that it may not necessarily result in more instructional hours. This notion, however, is misleading. The introduction of a shorter school day last year, part of the Three-Tier Bell system models, was aimed at extending the school year while simultaneously reducing the hours of instructional time. This adjustment was made to maintain consistent start and stop times, aligning with the operational hours established under the two-tier model.

The rationale behind this modification was to adhere to the minimal instructional hours required by North Carolina, totaling 1,025 hours. To achieve this within the constraints of the new model, the number of instructional days for students had to be extended. Presently, the calendars under consideration propose full-day schedules, accounting for 6.25 hours of instructional time, though the actual student day is 7 hours long. It's important to note that not all time within the 7-hour day can be counted as instructional hours, as minutes are subtracted for activities such as lunch and passing periods between classes.

Calculating the instructional time, a calendar with 169 days, as seen in the December testing calendar Draft #4, would result in 1,056.25 hours. In contrast, the January testing Draft #2 calendar, with 175 instructional days, would provide 1,093.75 hours—nearly 40 hours more of instructional time. This additional time is particularly beneficial for the elementary and middle school students, who account for nearly 70% of our school system, offering approximately 40 more hours of core instruction and six extra days of engagement with qualified teachers, counselors, and a supportive staff.

Moreover, extending the school year has wider-reaching benefits, including the provision of essential services such as breakfast and lunch at minimal or no cost to families for an additional six days. Additionally, students receive healthcare services from nurses and/or PATH healthcare professionals, special needs support, and counseling during this extended period.

Considering the partnership with Cape Fear Community College (CFCC), many school systems across North Carolina operate within the January testing calendar, demonstrating the feasibility of aligning with community colleges. While not ideal, it is a workable solution. The General Assembly's constraints on calendar start dates pose challenges, but choosing a calendar with more instructional days (Draft #2) allows high schools to collaborate with 11th and 12th grade students taking community college classes to ensure a seamless transition.

Despite potential scheduling gaps, students can utilize the extra time productively, preparing for exams, SAT/ACT tests, or pursuing academic or post-graduation goals like community service hours or tutoring their young peers.

It's crucial to highlight that the impact of the January end date on CFCC classes primarily affects juniors and seniors taking dual enrollment courses. Approximately 85% of grade levels/students in Pender County Schools are not affected by potential scheduling conflicts with CFCC's calendar. 

In conclusion, the decision on the school calendar is a significant one, impacting the trajectory of our students' education. Regardless of the chosen calendar, Pender County Schools is committed to implementing it with fidelity and continually improving all aspects of the school system. Your time and consideration are greatly appreciated, and your support for our school system is invaluable.