As school leaders grapple with COVID and the wrenches that beast is tossing into school calendar planning, I feel sorry for the school administrators who must create and juggle all these scenarios for a school year whose schedule is as tenuous as, well, an excuse for missing a Zoom meeting.
The payoff for this article are some suggested ways for overcoming scenario calendar planning nightmares that are haunting many of us – including me.
From my early years as a child, through my work in communications for a large urban school district, to this very day, for me, the start of the year always has coincided with the start of the new school year. Toss in the start of the football season and the dramatic relief fall weather brought, and you have a pretty good case for supporting my contention that we should make the first day of school the official New Year’s Day holiday.
If the lack of nailing down a school calendar has knocked me off my axis. I can only imagine what it’s doing to school administrators, parents, and, oh yeah, students.
When flexible becomes frenzy
When state departments of education began asking school districts months ago to be flexible as they plan calendars for the next school year, it put administrators at the 13,500-plus school districts across the country on alert to plan for multiple scenarios. Toss in another 39,000 or so private and charter schools that are going to need to pivot quickly when calendars are locked in.
At last check, some states have extended their deadlines for submitting next year's school calendar. Many are waiting till the last possible minute to push GO for the 2020-21 school year, but suffice it to say, the situation remains fluid, as many questions surrounding safety of students and teachers, remote learning and other logistics remain.
The cost of an uncertain school calendar
Regardless of what scenario actually plays out, it’s safe to say that the traditional school day and school calendar will be, if not upside down, sideways at best. It seems like every decision, indecision and non-decision creates risks.
Let’s put aside the lost remainder of the 2019-20 school year, cancelled summer programs, the languor and limbo or months we’ll never get back. The collateral damage, of course, goes beyond implying that a lost half-year, year, or, god forbid, year-and-a-half somehow compromised student development – see ‘COVID Generation’.
Consider the very qualified and capable teachers and administrators who are hanging it up prematurely; parents pulling their hair out, changing/adding/losing jobs; the cobbled curricula that will take the form of hastened remote, hybrid or condensed learning. An uncertain schedule has far-reaching ramifications.
Abandoning the traditional classroom
All-remote and hybrid schedules are not the panacea. Remote learning options come with scheduling problems too, not just parents and students but teachers and staff too,
With all due respect to the Prius, mule and Labradoodle, the hybrid route, while on the surface a plausible solution, doesn’t necessarily solve the scheduling issues. A combination of online schooling and in-classroom instruction seems the most logical way to go, but logic is beset with devilish details that are leaving school leaders scratching their heads right along with the parents who are wondering how it’s all going to work. In fact, a hybrid model could very well compound parents’ already-complicated balancing act of teacher/caretaker/parent.
At last check, only 21 percent of school districts have experience with online instruction. And those, quite naturally, are largely the domain of students at older-grade levels. Beyond the challenge of technology infrastructure, the lack of teacher training in both blended and all-remote learning methods compounds the adoption of remote solutions.
School leaders are not reaching consensus on the direction to go either – even within districts. One district in California is giving giving families the option of a hybrid schedule or 100% online learning. That won’t be hard to manage now, will it?
4 website calendar tools to help with scenario planning
Until your district settles on the official 2020-21 school year calendar, check out what Justin Zimmerman, product development director for Campus Suite, offers up to help school administrators to manage calendar scenario planning. Justin recommends website admins set up multiple Google calendars and connect the one they want when time is ready as soon as it's approved. Most of the school district CMS suppliers offer Google Calendar integration, but he’s highlighted some of the most popular CMS solutions.
1. Campus Suite
If Campus Suite customers are using the built-in calendar function, they can assemble multiple calendars using the ‘department’ module, creating as many calendars as desired, and keep them hidden from public view until the calendar plan is official. When the time comes, feed the chosen calendar into the main district calendar.
If they change at a moment's notice, they can just go to the department settings and switch which department gets sucked in. When they've finally settled on their calendar, if they don't want to keep the departments around, they can nuke what they don't need and then just move all of the events into the district with the bulk move to tidy things up
Blackboard uses Google calendar integration in its Blackboard Web Community Manager. Working in Blackboard’s Site Manager, the process is pretty simple, as explained in this Blackboard Google Calendar Guide. Blackboard’s Sync One-Way option enables users to import events from a Google Calendar into a Calendar App. These events display are locked and must be edited in the Google Calendar. The Sync Both-Ways option allows editing in either the calendar app or Google calendar.
3. School Loop
Again, with School Loop, you can import and display events from Google Calendars. Also, much like the Campus Suite built-in solution, School Loop customers can use the SL School Year Calendar Generator.
Edlio allows you to integrate Google or Office 365 calendars, and offers users the ability to manage multiple calendars by various levels: district, school, section and personal. Visit the calendar overview section on Edlio’s Help Center for more information.
When schools across the nation shut down mid-March, it was pretty much with no warning for the teachers and families responsible for picking up the slack. With little time to plan for a transition to remote learning, the only certainty was the uncertainty of what lay ahead in the comings weeks, months – and now, school year.
Well, here we are well into July 2020, and many schools are still scrambling with schedule scenarios.
The good news is that if at any time in your career as a school administrator, teacher, or other staffer you felt a lack of due respect for what you do, the entire world is realizing the pervasive importance and value of schools, their teachers, and administrators.
The bad news: once this calendar issue is settled, then it’s onto other details like distancing and masks, curriculum adjustments, connectivity, internet speed, teacher and parent training...the list goes on.
Marketing director and content strategist for Campus Suite, Jay’s a former school public relations specialist who’s helped businesses, schools and colleges use the power of web communications to improve their image, generate support, and optimize relationships. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.