Teachers and students keep Thanksgiving break for 2018-19

Students and teachers will keep their full week for Thanksgiving break for at least one more year, after calendar changes were put on hold. Clark County School District students and teachers have had the week off since the 2016-2017 school year, when the district eliminated staff development days and replaced them with a full week off for Thanksgiving.

Instead of staff development days, teachers were required to stay an hour late each Wednesday for similar training. Those changes, however, were temporary, as the random
days off throughout the year could be returning. The district’s request to renew the schedule for next year was approved, but in coming years, change is likely.

“The thought was to create a system where staff development—professional development—for teachers would be more ongoing and sustainable, rather than just one day in September,” Spring Valley principal Tam Larnerd said. “Then you just hope that whatever… strategy, or whatever, is being implemented for the rest of the year.”

The state allows for four staff development days a year. The change, when implemented, would be district-wide. The state wants to potentially go back to the old schedule, but the district is trying to compromise, possibly making the Monday of Thanksgiving week a staff development day, or having the year start a day earlier. However, as of now, the schedule is year to year.

“This is the first time we’ve ever had this structure, where we can kinda have more ongoing professional development, rather than just a one day spray and pray and hope it sticks,” Larnerd said about the current schedule.

Staff development days were replaced with weekly Wednesday meetings. While a teacher’s day is usually over at 2:01, the meetings, called Sight Based Collaboration Time, go until 3:05, giving an extra 63 minutes each week to make up for the lost days.

“[Staff development days] would be the whole day. Usually, they would try to align it with a three day weekend or something…” Larnerd said. “The problem is, is that it’s really difficult for teachers who are parents to, out of the blue, have their kids home from school.”

Larnerd said that teachers would occasionally call out sick to take care of their younger children who have off.

“I don’t mind staff development days,” English teacher Tiffany Hemberger said. “I do enjoy the week of Thanksgiving off, but right now, teachers have to attend meetings on Wednesdays for about two hours… If I had to choose between staff development day and weekly meetings, I would choose the day.”

Larnerd said that he thinks teachers have gotten used to the new schedule after two years. A survey was put out to teachers and others who could be affected by the change to see what days they might want for the staff development days.

“I feel like [staff development days are] building the culture of your school and making us
better professionals and being aware of what students are going through,” Hemberger said. “Whereas the weekly meetings that we have are very rushed. Nobody really wants to go to them at the end of their day, and it’s in conflict with me picking up my child. And if you’re a coach, you have to postpone athletics.”

Student reactions have been mixed. Some would choose staff development days over the week off for Thanksgiving, saying that it gives them periodic breaks. Others say that they would prefer the week off to see family and relax.

“I mean, it would be nice to have random days off, but it would kinda suck because our Thanksgiving would be cut short,” freshman Ariana Ibarra said. “[I spend it] at home and visiting family, which I don’t get to do very often.”

Larnerd said that he thinks the current schedule has had positive feedback concerning winter break. He said that having semester exams before winter break allowed for an extra week of learning, considering the week before break used to be used for fluff and holiday activities. That part of the schedule would not change.

“I kinda like the SBCT,” Larnerd said. “I didn’t like it at first, because it was a lot of extra work for me, but now we’ve got a pretty good system where teachers are communicating exactly what their needs are, and we can align it with the things that they believe are important. [On March 21], for example, in light of school safety, we practiced some safety drills, so we had all the teachers here. Nobody could complain that they were wasting their time.”

Although SBCT will remain in place next year, the district is still reviewing other options for years after.