TEA has begun providing information to school districts about using a newly created program that provides half-day funding for up to 30 additional school days (the Additional Days School Year, or ADSY) for grades pre-K through 5 as a solution for dealing with COVID-19 educational interruptions for the upcoming school year. This program was created in House Bill 3 during the 2019 legislative session, and Commissioner Mike Morath has enthusiastically promoted it, including as the focus of his presentation to TCTA members at our winter 2020 annual meeting. TEA is recommending additional days in conjunction with major revisions to the school calendar.
TCTA is not aware of a surge of districts planning to make such changes for 2020-21, but teachers should be alert to any such discussions because of the many challenges and the need for strong educator input.
The ADSY program was originally intended to provide districts with additional state funding to enhance instructional time through a revised school calendar, either for individual campuses or an entire district, with an emphasis on helping struggling students. Under these new provisions of HB 3, districts can get half-day funding for up to 30 days of additional classroom time in pre-K through 5. TEA provided three suggested options on how the additional time could be structured in its early communications about the program.
In a new PowerPoint presentation available on the TEA website, the agency predicts that the 2020-21 school year is “likely to include short-term disruptions to instruction and high student absenteeism” in anticipation of additional waves of COVID-19 infections, and recommends that districts be prepared to revise their school calendars. It also proposes that districts consider the ADSY option in conjunction with a revised calendar.
The TEA presentation specifically suggests that converting to an “intersessional calendar” — akin to year-round school — would be beneficial for teachers and students. TEA’s recommendation includes six additional weeks of intersessional breaks that can be used for remediation, acceleration, or enrichment; school closures due to resurgence of COVID-19; and/or bad weather make up days. The revised calendar could involve an earlier start date, longer mid-year breaks, and a later end date. (An example is provided with two weeks off at Thanksgiving, four weeks in December/January, three weeks in March, and six weeks in June/July.)
TEA notes that districts wishing to change their start dates should use the District of Innovation process to do so.
Educators and others have many concerns about making such a transition, especially on short enough notice to implement during the upcoming school year:
TEA has not yet released the details of how districts can draw down ADSY funds, so districts will be discussing the issue during the budgeting process.
Any districts newly considering a revised calendar must get approval from the school board for the change in start date and other dates. If the plan involves additional days, there also must be approval for salaries for teachers and other employees, and other considerations such as food and transportation, maintenance, and other areas of support.
Districts that would require a District of Innovation plan must go through the process outlined in law, which requires a school board resolution, formation of a committee to develop the plan, development of a plan that must be posted for 30 days, and approval by a majority vote of the district-level decision-making committee in a public meeting. The plan must also be approved by a two-thirds vote of the school board. A revision to an existing plan must also go through a similar approval process. Some Districts of Innovation have taken away important employee rights, such as planning and preparation time, or have extended the probationary contract period for experienced teachers. Many of them eliminated elementary class size caps. If your district tries to create or amend its DOI plan, you should pay close attention as the scope of the plan may go beyond a change in the school calendar. If your district does not have a legally constituted district-level planning committee where faculty representatives are elected by the faculty, you should call the TCTA legal department before any DOI proposal is submitted to the committee.
If your district is considering this option, contact your campus/district administrators to see if there is a place for you or local CTA leaders to get involved in the process. If the plan requires DOI involvement, for example, ask to be included on the DOI committee and make sure your district has a legally constituted district-level decision-making committee. And if you are a TCTA member, call our legal department at 888-879-8282 with any questions and concerns about your district’s specific proposal.