In December 2010, the school board approved the new academic calendar. While it has the same number of school days as other districts, it trades a shorter summer break for longer breaks throughout the year. The last school year was OCPS’s first under the new calendar.
While other schools begin during the second or third week of August, OCPS schools begin Wednesday.
Sandra Park, deputy superintendent, said reaction to the new calendar has been overwhelmingly positive.
"A lot of times we gauge how well something is working out by how many complaints we get, and we’ve gotten very, very few," she said.
Pros and cons
One positive aspect of the schedule, she said, is that it allows students who may need remediation to come to school during the periodic breaks to catch up, rather than having to wait until summer to do so. Another is that the calendar is less stressful for teachers and students.
On the other hand, Park said, the new schedule provides less turnaround time for principals to prepare their buildings and staffing between academic years — and an earlier August start date can raise heat-related issues on buses.
“We know we’re just a couple weeks ahead of the other schools, but we’re sensitive to those needs,” Park said.
Food is another issue, she said. Although the school district has a federal grant to help feed anyone from birth to age 18 during the summer, federal rules prohibit similar programs during the other long breaks.
Park said the school has partnered with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma to help send backpacks of food home with students who need them. “That’s probably our biggest concern: making sure our students are getting fed during those intercessions,” she said. “We want to make certain our kids are not going hungry.”
Park said the district might tweak the calendar in a couple of years, but she does not foresee the district abandoning it.
“There’s been no talk of going back to the original,” Park said. “It’s really worked out great. We love it.”
For more information about the district’s intercession feeding program or to find out how to donate, call 587-0000.