The Dubuque Community School District has released its proposed 2014-15 calendar that district officials say is designed to be in line with new state requirements while also enhancing student instruction time and professional learning for teachers.

The calendar drafts are posted on the district’s website with an opportunity for community members to provide feedback on the draft through Monday, February 3.

The proposed calendar now counts student instruction time in terms of hours instead of days – a change necessitated by the state’s new definition of a complete school day which would mean days with weather-related late starts or early dismissals would not be counted. This would lead to cancellation on those days.

District officials embraced the change to hours and believe it has led to a calendar that will enhance education across the district.

“This proposed calendar adds instruction time for every student,” said Superintendent Stan Rheingans. “It also provides consistent professional learning for every teacher in the district and meets the state requirements for 36 hours of teacher collaboration time. The more our calendar planning progressed, the more we saw that changing from days to hours provided significant benefits to students and teachers.”

One of the main components of the draft is the elimination of all two-hour releases in the district, including the weekly ones at the district’s five Title I schools. Instead, it adds a weekly one-hour late arrival on Friday mornings for every school in the district and also adds minutes to each school day.

The district is working with community partners to ensure that activities are available for families needing them on Friday morning late arrivals. Y-Care and St. Mark Youth Enrichment have already committed to providing coverage during these times.

Rheingans said the proposed changes are in line with the district’s strategic plan priority to evaluate the calendar and examine time utilization to benefit students. In the proposed calendar, students in the district’s Title I schools will see a minimum of 38 additional hours of instruction each year.

The 1,100 hour proposed calendar includes a 20-hour contingency to cover weather-related late starts or early dismissals. Any late starts or early dismissals that would cause the total number of instruction hours to fall below 1,080 will be made up. Full days cancelled due to weather will be made up as they are currently.

“Having to make up hours missed due to any bad weather late start or early dismissal now means that the safety of our students and the time spent in the classroom are not in conflict,” said Rheingans. “We can guarantee that students will receive at least 1,080 hours of instruction each year. This is something we can’t guarantee now.”

The calendar, while adding both instruction time and professional learning time, comes at no additional expense to the district and fits within the parameters of the negotiated teacher contract.

“The proposed calendar gives more instruction time and new professional learning opportunities to help our teachers become even better,” said Rheingans. “It’s hard not to be excited about that. We are confident that this calendar is focused on doing what’s right for kids.”