Philly schools request feedback from parents, community on academic calendars

FILE - In this Sept. 13, 2021, file photo, a girl passes a 'Welcome Back to School' sign as she arrives for the first day of class. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

FILE - In this Sept. 13, 2021, file photo, a girl passes a 'Welcome Back to School' sign as she arrives for the first day of class. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

With the school year nearly a third of the way over, Philadelphia’s school district is beginning work on its calendars for the next two years and is looking for feedback.

Students, families, and community members are invited to complete a survey — which is available in 10 languages — by 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 14.

The survey asks respondents what factors they think the district should prioritize when deciding the first and last days of school. Those factors include heat, access to child care, and summer program dates, among others.

This year, classes started before Labor Day when daily temperatures were still high. More than 100 schools closed early during the first week of school due to extreme heat and the lack of air conditioning in most schools.

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At the time, parents and teachers said it made sense to push the first day of school back to avoid heat-related closures. Though the same issue also presented itself at the end of last school year.

The school year must consist of 181 days for students between July 1 and June 30.

Another question the district is asking families to consider is the number of days schools close for holidays and cultural celebrations. Right now it’s 11, though the state requires the district to observe only five national holidays.

Additional questions include when schools should close early so teachers can participate in professional development, how to schedule report card conferences with parents, and factors to consider when deciding the length and timing of winter and spring breaks.

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers contract requires that the district offer 12 paid holidays and at least 28 professional development hours for teachers.

Philadelphia’s Board of Education will vote on calendars for the next two school years at its February meeting. Calendars apply only to district-run, not charter, schools.

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