Knox County students will spend two more days in school next year, and get an additional two snow days if Mother Nature requires it.
Wednesday night, the Board of Education made some adjustments to the previously-approved 2014-15 school calendar. Originally, the calendar included 178 instructional days -- three more than the current 175. Wednesday, the board approved 177 instructional days, giving the remaining day back to teachers for an in-service day.
The board also approved two additional snow days next year, bringing the total to 10. This year, the school used one more snow day than scheduled forcing students and teachers to make up the lost classroom time.
"We hear the need for additional time," said assistant superintendent, Dr. Elizabeth Alves. "There's a lot to be taught, a lot to be covered in a school year. So this is really our effort to provide that opportunity for our students to be successful."
In February,the state comptroller's office issued a report, after researching the results of adding extra days to a school year. At the time, those researchers said they did not find a strong link between extended hours and student achievement. Alves says the district believes there is a link.
"We are always looking for opportunities," she said. "Many of our schools offer additional time after school. We have summer learning opportunities. So, we do believe that many of our students do need that additional time in order to be successful."
The board also approved the calendar two years out, for the 2015-16 school year. It includes the same number of instructional days as 2014-15.
The additional days are not tacked onto the beginning or end of the school year, but instead, are taken from previous teacher in-service days. Therefore, teachers won't be adding any days to their 200-day contract in the new year.
However, those two extra school days will cost the district more money -- about $200,000 -- mostly in transportation costs.
School calendars in the future may have more significant changes.
Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre has previously discussed the idea of a "balanced calendar," a model that includes shorter summer breaks, and cycles of nine week instruction time followed by two week breaks throughout the year.
"I think Dr. McIntyre's intent [is] to really initiate a really public and broad conversation in the fall," Alves said. "To solicit input from our parents, our teachers, all of our constituents, our community-- to really see what level of interest their is to guide us through our 2016-17 calendar development."