JEFFERSON CITY - The Jefferson City School District approved a new yearly calendar for all the public schools without one of the biggest changes on the Monday's agenda. The school board will revisit a decision for 70-minute early dismissals every Monday at the next meeting on March 8. 

The 2021-2022 school calendar was voted on and approved by the Board of Education at Monday night's meeting, withholding the early release days.

The new calendar allows two full weeks for winter break, three full days for Thanksgiving break and school would end before Memorial Day. 

Under the early dismissal, students would be released from school 70 minutes early every Monday. When the students are not in the classroom, the early release would allow teachers to meet, plan and collaborate with one another, according to the district. 

The district decided on Mondays as the consistent early release date since there are numerous federal holidays such as Labor Day and President's Day that fall on a Monday. 

Elementary teacher Kayla Meyerpeter explained how teachers will be able to efficiently use the 70 minutes each week. 

"Most elementary teachers are putting in a lot of time outside of our contracted hours planning with each other," Meyerpeter said. "It'll be nice to have that 70 minutes every week where we'll be able to work with each other and not stay super late after school." 

In the new school year under early dismissals, elementary schools may be dismissed at 1:35 p.m., middle schools at 2:40 p.m. and high school students will leave at 2:30 p.m. The 2020-2021 calendar currently has early dismissals every other Monday, while the new calendar changes the early dismissals to every week. 

John Miller is the parent of a third grade Jefferson City student. He explained the new calendar would make it difficult for working parents to arrange child care at the earlier time. 

"If I have to leave work early every week to pick up my kid that affects the ability to pay my bills," Miller said. "I don't think my boss is going to think very kindly of somebody leaving work every Monday to what would essentially be half the day." 

The school district stated in an FAQ document after-school will be provided on early release days from The Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA. Miller explained the early release days put working parents at a disadvantage. 

"I can't afford to not work on Mondays," Miller said. "If I don't work Mondays, I'm not going to have a job." 

Nicole Weidenbenner has a 16-year-old son in high school who requires weekly appointments outside of school. Parents like Weidenbenner support the calendar's passing. 

"Early release on a weekly basis provides opportunities for routine health care appointments," Weidenbenner said. "My son misses the same class every week so it would not only keep him in the classroom, but it would also allow him to stay caught up on his classwork." 

Weidenbenner's son has a disability and leaves school early every week for doctor's visits and therapy. She explained how the new schedule would help her son and his community. 

"This is especially impactful for students in the special needs community because those are the students that are really going to be using those speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy providers on a weekly basis," Weidenbenner said. "Those providers really need to see patients on a weekly basis to make progress toward their health goals." 

Some current students feel that the new calendar will disrupt the way they're used to doing school. David Bethune is a junior at Jefferson City High School. He explained how he thinks the early release will impact him. 

"I think one of the main ways that it affects us [students] is focus wise, because we're coming off of a weekend," Bethune said. "I feel like coming off a weekend, we'll feel like we don't really need to focus on school because I'm really not going to be there for much longer." 

The calendar vote passed without the weekly early dismissal Mondays at Monday night's meeting. The new calendar will be implemented for the 2021-2022 school year. Next school year begins on Aug. 23, 2021. 

The board will meet again in two weeks on March 8 and re-evaluate the weekly early dismissals. 

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