Developing a school district calendar is an important undertaking each year for school district personnel and communities. The decisions about calendars not only have a significant impact on student learning and achievement, they also play a role in the personal and professional lives of parents and members of the community. When making a decision regarding calendar adoption, a district should refer to their mission and vision and have clear goals in mind for the structure of their calendar. Choices about the type of calendar should be deliberate and enhance learning and achievement both inside and outside of the school building. Equity of access to academic and non-academic supports and services needs to be kept in mind.
Beyond the immediate impact to the school learning environment, districts should be mindful of the impact school district calendars have on the community. Special consideration should be given to other organizations in the community that have historically based their own schedules on K-12 school district calendars. Engagement with these stakeholders will enable the district to make an informed decision in the development of their calendar.
Beginning with the 2022-2023 school year, districts will have four (4) options for establishing a school year calendar.
- Traditional school calendar pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 6-10-106;
- Alternate school calendar pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 6-10-106 as amended by Act 688 of 2021;
- 4 Day week school calendar pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 6-10-117; or
- 12 Month/Year Round school calendar pursuant to Ark Code Ann. § 6-10-108.
A district can only implement one (1) type of calendar in a school year. Districts will identify their calendar option in the Statewide Information System LEA Profile: District Table during Cycle 7 prior to the school year of implementation.
Regardless of the type of calendar adopted, districts need to keep in mind certain elements of school district operations that remain consistent. Each calendar option still has minimum requirements for student-teacher interaction and a requirement for teacher employment under a “basic contract.” The “Basic contract” means a teacher employment contract for one hundred ninety (190) days that includes no less than six (6) days of professional development. The school year calendar chosen may require a change in the wording of a basic teacher contract. Districts also will need to consider how calendar decisions will affect staffing for hourly employees, especially if overtime will be required.
Districts also must schedule no fewer than two (2) parent teacher conferences per school year, regardless of which calendar it adopts. Conferences cannot be scheduled during the hours or days required for minimum student-teacher interaction. Additionally, classes in grades 9-12 must meet the clock hour equivalency of one hundred twenty (120) clock hours for a Carnegie Unit. Districts also must provide daily recess consistent with Ark. Code Ann. § 6-16-102(a)(5)(A).
Beginning with the 2022-2023 school year, the first day of the school year for student attendance in public elementary and secondary schools shall not be earlier than the Monday two (2) weeks before Labor Day. A waiver under Act 1240 (codified at Ark. Code Ann. § 6-15-103) cannot be granted for an earlier start date. This requirement does not apply to school districts operating on a twelve-month school year under Ark. Code Ann. § 6-10-108 but does apply to districts operating on a four-day school week under Ark. Code Ann. § 6-10-117. As always, school cannot be held on Labor Day.
Traditional School Calendar
A traditional school calendar consists of 178 days of student-teacher interaction with “school day” defined as a day in which classes are in session and students receive at least six (6) hours of instructional time per day (or an average of 30 hours per week). Districts that implement a traditional school calendar must schedule at least 5 make-up days in case of school closure for exceptional or emergency circumstances (Ark. Code Ann. § 6-10-106(f)). Traditional school calendars must adhere to Ark. Code Ann. § 6-10-106 uniform dates for beginning and end of school year; Ark. Code Ann.
§ 6-10-126 for delay or early release of school due to emergency circumstances; and Ark. Code Ann. § 6-10-127 for making up missed school days. The district is eligible for the use of alternative methods of instruction granted under Ark. Code Ann. § 6-10-127.
Alternate School Calendar
Legislation passed during the 2021 session (Act 688) allows for districts to implement an alternate school calendar that is based on instructional hours instead of instructional days. Under an alternate school calendar, a school year shall consist of at least one thousand sixty-eight (1,068) hours of instructional time; plus at least thirty (30) make-up hours. For the purposes of a public school district that implements an alternate school calendar under Ark. Code Ann. § 6-10-106(g), a school day is a day in which classes are in session and students are under the guidance and direction of a teacher or public school employee. While there is not a minimum number of school days required to meet the one thousand sixty-eight (1,068) hours of instructional time, districts that implement an alternate school calendar must determine the number of daily instructional hours students will receive under the alternate calendar option and must establish an hour-to-day conversion based on a six-hour instructional day to determine student attendance, the number of days required in a teacher employment basic contract under § 6-17-2402(1), and to comply with official reporting period requirements.
For the purpose of tracking student attendance, because eSchool will not allow for tracking hours, student attendance will be tracked by minutes, which then will be converted to attendance days. Districts will need to work with their APSCN Field Analysts to modify the Attendance View setup in eSchool. Districts will have to start entering time-in/out for students so that the number of minutes will be correct for attendance.
For the purposes of meeting the number of days required in a basic teacher employment contract under § 6-17-2402(1), a district that implements an alternate calendar must meet the hourly equivalent of 178 six-hour student-teacher interaction days (which is 1,068 instructional hours). The remaining contract days/hours can be fulfilled with additional student-teacher interaction, professional development, or scheduled district work days.
For the purposes of official reporting requirements for alternate calendars, the total number of instructional hours shall be converted to six-hour school days and meet requirements for quarterly reporting of attendance under Ark. Code Ann.
§ 6-18-213(b)(1). Unless the district seeks and is approved for a waiver of the number of days (or their hourly equivalent) required for reporting period requirements, the official reporting period for attendance shall be quarterly with the number of hours counted in each period to be no less than the equivalent of forty (40) six-hour instructional days and no more than the equivalent of fifty (50) six-hour instructional days. District calendars must reflect the conversion to instructional days for calculation of reporting periods and must be posted on the district website by August 1 annually.
When instructional time is missed for days unavoidably lost due to exceptional or emergency circumstances, the district will schedule make-up hours as needed using the scheduled make-up hours built into the school calendar. If additional make-up hours are needed, the public school district board of directors shall modify its alternate school calendar to include make-up hours for the additional instructional time needed to meet requirements. Under an alternate calendar, the district is not eligible to use alternative methods of instruction granted under Ark. Code Ann. § 6-10-127.
4-Day Week School Calendar
Districts also have the option to adopt a 4-day week school calendar pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 6-10-117. Under this option, a district must average thirty (30) hours per week. This can be met with four (4) 7 ½ hour instructional days. For districts electing to operate on a four-day week basis, the official reporting period for attendance shall be quarterly with the actual number of days counted in each period to be not less than thirty-two (32) days nor more than forty (40) days. Some districts that are currently implementing a 4-day week calendar are still offering a 5th day educational option for students to provide academic interventions, enrichment activities, access to services, etc.
12 Month/Year Round School Calendar
A district may also choose a 12 month/year-round school calendar option as described in Ark. Code Ann. § 6-10-108. This option, which is a “twelve-month year-round educational program,” means an educational program in which all students attend school no less than the number of days required by the Standards for Accreditation of Arkansas Public Schools and School Districts (178 days; 6 hours of instruction daily or average 30 hours per week) between July 1 and June 30 of each school year and in which no vacation, including summer, lasts more than seven (7) weeks.
Prior to May 1 to prepare and issue teacher contracts
Stakeholder input regarding calendar option
Local school board approves the district calendar
Cycle 7 (June 15)
Input selected calendar option in SIS
District calendar is posted on the district website (Standards for Accreditation 1-A.4)