On Thursday, the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve the intersession and school-day redesign calendars.

The calendars, which DISD proposed as a remedy to learning loss, especially as a result of the pandemic, will go into effect for two years, starting at the beginning of the 2021-22 academic year.

Prior to the vote, the district announced changes to the original plans for the calendars.

Instead of implementing one of the new calendar options for an entire feeder system, the district will implement calendars on a school-by-school basis. Decisions about which calendar to adopt will be made using feedback from principals, teachers and staff, and parents.

“We’re not trying to force this on any school,” says Deputy Chief of Academics Derek Little. “All of them will go through the process to confirm interest from teachers, staff and parents. And then, and only then, would they move to the intersession or the school-day redesign calendar.”

Little says the district is continuing to survey school employees and DISD families alike to understand which calendar each school would prefer. The district wants at least 75-80% of employees and parents at each school to provide feedback before it makes any decisions.

All schools will default to the base calendar and will only switch to a new calendar if there is enough interest in doing so.

Dallas ISD officials presented a slideshow at the Jan. 28 DISD Board of Trustees meeting. Image courtesy of Dallas ISD.

Several of the trustees asked about what choices families and employees, especially teachers, would have if their school adopted a calendar they didn’t prefer. Little says teachers can stay at their school and decline to teach the extra days that come with the intersession calendar, or they can transfer to another school that uses the calendar they prefer.

In addition, teachers can choose to teach a fragment of the intersession days, rather than all of them. School employees who opt to work during the added days will receive additional pay as well as more planning and preparation days.

Similarly, students could transfer to a school other than their neighborhood school if they were unhappy with the calendar choice.

Little says before adjusting which calendar a school uses, the district will need to make sure not only that there is enough interest in changing the calendar — or that there isn’t too much disinterest — but also that there are enough parents who would take advantage of the additional school days and enough school staff who would be willing to work during those days.

During the public hearing portion of the meeting, parents and teachers asked the trustees not to approve the new calendars. Alliance AFT member Tanya Hernandez, who was opposed to the calendar changes, says some bilingual DISD instructors leave their countries of origin to work during the school year and rely on summer break to return to their home countries and visit their families.

Angela Hunt, whose children attend elementary schools in DISD, says students need time during the summer to be with their families and take a break from school work.

“I think there will be a number of parents that, unfortunately, leave the district, and I fear that there may be teachers who leave the district as well,” she says. “This is the type of disruptive change that we really want to see draw parents’ support and buy-in before making this type of change.”

Little says the district hopes to report back to the board in February with more data about what faculty, staff and parents from each school are reporting in regard to a possible calendar change.

Here’s how Preston Hollow’s trustees responded to the calendar change.

District 1 Trustee Edwin Flores: “I think it’s important that we do something about our COVID slide. I think it’s important that we move away from the agrarian calendar that we use today. And I have a feeling that when we see the  results from the schools that opt to do intersession and opt to do redesign, and the student performance scores, I mean you can’t go wrong having more days of school. You just can’t. And when other schools see those results, they’re going to be saying, ‘hey, how do I get in on this.'”

District 2 Trustee Dustin Marshall: “At the end of the day, the learning loss from COVID is so extreme, that I think we’ve gotta act boldly…If there’s ever a situation where we need to both pony up the money and also make some tough decisions that are uncomfortable and may have some unforeseen problems or bumps along the way, this is the time that we need to be doing that.”