North Hills School District News Article

School board approves 2020-21 academic calendar

Posted Tuesday, September 17, 2019

 The North Hills Board of Education voted to approve the academic calendar for the 2020-21 school year at its board meeting on September 19, 2019. The calendar is the second of two options presented to board members and has June 3, 2021 as the last day of school for all students. 

Previously Reported:

PITTSBURGH – The North Hills Board of Education will discuss and vote on the academic calendar for the 2020-21 school year at its meeting this Thursday, September 19.

There are two proposed versions of the calendar, one of which has a different last day of school for kindergarteners.

Option No. 1 lists the last day for the kindergarten class as Friday, May 21, 2021. The last day of school for all other students is Thursday, June 3, 2021. The eight-school-day-difference will allow the district to facilitate an expanded and improved process for conducting readiness assessments for incoming kindergartners.

Option No. 2 of the calendar has Thursday, June 3, 2021 as the last day of school for all students and would require, among other things, substitutes in classrooms and additional funding to accomplish planned improvements to the process for kindergarten assessments.

Both calendars include the same first day of school on Tuesday, August 25, 2020 and high school graduation on June 4, 2021.

For the first time in May 2019, students entering kindergarten in the North Hills School District participated in kindergarten readiness screenings. The BRIGANCE Early Childhood Screen III for Kindergarten was used to determine students’ strengths and needs, and provide information that facilitates instructional decisions for students.  

The screenings are designed to provide a snapshot of a child’s development at a particular point in time and measure skills from five developmental areas: fine-motor, gross-motor, language, academic, and self-help and social emotional.

For incoming kindergartners in 2019-20, assessments were conducted at the end of the school year by trained, district teachers while substitutes covered classes. Because of a shortage of substitute teachers, additional hours were offered after school hours and during the summer.  

While the first year of implementation provided invaluable information for school staff, it also became apparent that some improvements were needed with the biggest being the need for individual conferences with teachers and parents/guardians immediately following the assessments. Opportunities for students to visit kindergarten classrooms during the assessments and a sharing of resources to help families to better prepare students for the first day of school are also among planned improvements. 

In general, kindergarten readiness assessments are best accomplished in May after incoming students have completed preschool programs. It also allows sufficient time and direction for families who wish to practice skills at home during the summer months and time for other families who may choose to use the assessment results to consider other options before kindergarten.

Utilizing district teachers to administer the assessments during the school day would allow the district to save nearly $20,000, the cost estimated to conduct testing after school hours and with substitutes to cover classes. It would also minimize disruption: current kindergarteners wouldn’t have varying day-to-day substitute teachers.

While substitutes will be an option going forward if option No. 2 of the calendar is approved, the ongoing substitute shortage in Pennsylvania continues to make it difficult to find certified teachers to cover classes.

North Hills knows that providing useful and timely information is imperative for transitioning incoming students and their families. Shortening the end of the kindergarten school year to give proper time for the assessments allows the district to provide quality information and feedback to these families along with tools and resources that can be used over the summer for the benefit of their children.

The district also realizes that adjusting the last day of school for kindergartners is potentially a big change for families. Parents and guardians are encouraged to attend Thursday’s board meeting as board members and administrators discuss the different calendar options.

In Pennsylvania, kindergartners are required to have 450 hours of instruction. Since kindergarten is full-day in North Hills, the school year can be shortened while still offering nearly double the required hours.

For the 2019-20 school year, a plan similar to last year including adjusting schedules and paying for substitutes and teacher overtime is planned to complete the kindergarten assessments. 

In addition to the academic calendar, items on the agenda for Thursday’s school board meeting include:

  • An enrollment update for 2019-20
  • An update on the transition plan for moving sixth-graders to the North Hills Middle School in 2020-21

Thursday’s meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the Middle School LGI Room.

Comments can also be directed via email to School Board Secretary Lori Rieger at riegerl@nhsd.net.

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