By Nate Smith
---- — The Washington School Board voted Monday to accept a balanced calendar for the next two years.
The 5-1 vote will move summer vacation from three months to two but will give more free time during the school year. Superintendent Daniel Roach said the calendar was "a combination of two different approaches."
According to the information provided by the school, teachers start preparations on Aug. 1 and students will start school on Aug. 4. There will be a week for fall break, on Oct. 13 to 17. This year, there were three school days used for the break.
On March 23, there will be the start of make-up days for snow cancellations. If they are not used, the days turn into extra spring break days. A full week of spring break will be March 23 to 27.
The last day of school is slated for May 22 and graduation will be May 23, but if more than five snow days are used during the year, students including graduated seniors, will have to return to school starting May 26.
The 2015-16 calendar is very similar, with the same makeup of vacation days. Washington Community is one of the first school systems in the area to move to a balanced calendar.
Roach said about 275 people participated in a survey on the school's website and a majority of people, including parents and taxpayers, were in favor of the new calendar.
"It was a significant number," Roach said.
Board member Jay Armes was the lone dissenting vote. During discussion, he expressed reservations about the calendar because of agricultural concerns and tourism. Board member Steve Bouchie was absent.
Although they will not be publicly released until next month, Washington discussed their A to F school grades.
Assistant Superintendent Paul White told the board the schools are improving.
"We had a pretty good year," White said. "We improved across the board."
As a corporation, Washington had a C grade, but White said the corporation improved significantly and was on the cusp of a B.
Every school either maintained the same letter grades as last year, or went up a letter grade. The highest-rated schools were North and Veale elementaries, who had A grades.
Griffith and Lena Dunn elementary schools improved a full letter grade from a year before from a D to C. White said many of the grades reflect a jump in language arts test scores.
"Most of our schools have posted a language arts jump that I hope really reflects what we have been doing," White said.
The junior high school had language arts improvements, but their overall grade was a C. The high school improved from a C to a B, continuing an upward trajectory of the past three years, White said.
The controversial A to F grade system was supposed to be publicly released earlier this fall but was delayed due to glitches in the ISTEP program this spring and an ongoing fight at the state Board of Education over control of the grades. The board is to release the grades on Dec. 17.
The board voted to extend the Early College program with Vincennes University. The high school is one of seven in the state to offer VU dual-credit courses that can transfer to other public universities in Indiana.
VU President Richard Helton, on hand during the meeting, said students and parents save money and taxpayers save funds.
"We've had a really good experience with Washington schools," Helton said.
Also, the board voted to accept an offer on fixing the brakes for the old charter bus. The person will tow and fix the brakes at their own expense and then present a report to the board on its future feasibility. Last month, the board voted to make the bus surplus and sell the bus.
The board voted to make several computers surplus and plan to donate them to the new Haitian ministry at Calvary Baptist Church for English classes.