TAMPA — With more than four months to spare, and plenty of crossed fingers, the Hillsborough County School Board on Tuesday approved a student calendar for next year.
It was a far cry from last year, when a double-barreled debate over religious holidays and teacher planning time forced calendar changes weeks after classes started.
"We've got a calendar, hopefully," said member Susan Valdes, shortly before the unanimous vote.
District officials held weeks of meetings to take the drama out of this year's process, and got their reward: a quiet meeting without a single protest.
Under the plan, school starts Aug. 23 and ends on June 8. There's a week off for Thanksgiving, a two-week winter holiday, and spring break in mid March.
Students won't attend classes on Good Friday, the source of one debate last year. And classes will end one hour early most Mondays for teacher planning. The board even approved a second, tentative calendar for the fall of 2012.
"Tentative being the key word," said member April Griffin, voicing support for the attempt.
The district must still negotiate a contract with teachers this summer, once the scope of state budget cuts becomes clear. Such talks rekindled the calendar debate last summer, after the two sides agreed to 14 early-release Wednesdays and parents rallied in opposition.
But union officials say they support the latest compromise on teacher planning time.
"We will work with the district to implement that," said Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins, executive director of the teachers union.
Board member Stacy White threw the only cold water on the idea, voting against the Monday planning hour while supporting the rest of the calendar in a separate vote.
"To be honest, I would just prefer that we not have these early-release days at all," he said.
But board chairwoman Doretha Edgecomb offered a spirited defense of the plan, saying teachers need time to develop meaningful lessons that inspire students and boost achievement.
"If those are the outcomes we want, we have to provide the time," she said.
For copies of the calendars, visit www.sdhc.k12.fl.us.
Tom Marshall can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3400.