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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) - School Calendar

Developing Durham Public Schools’ (DPS) school calendars is a lengthy and thoughtful process that takes months to finalize. The coordination and development of the calendar falls under the responsibility of the Student Support Services Division/Community Education Department. During the development process, input is requested from school staff, parents, school administration, Executive Leadership Team, and Student Support Services Committee prior to approval by the School Board. This FAQ is intended to provide insight regarding the calendar process and provide you with answers to questions about the development and adoption of the Durham Public Schools traditional and year round school calendars.

Q. What is the timeline for the development of a school calendar?
The process for developing and finalizing the school calendar is a collaborative effort that takes approximately 6 months from start to finish. School calendars are typically developed two years in advance for planning purposes for staff, students, and parents. From October through April the steps involved in this process include:

  1. Review calendar to identify holidays that will impact the school year calendar;
  2. Verify new legislation in the General Assembly that may impact the school calendar;
  3. Determine calendar committee to provide input on draft calendar;
  4. Calendar Committee recommendations are shared with school communities;
  5. School community and central services administration input is received and shared with Superintendent and subsequently the School Board for review and adoption.

Q. Who serves on the Calendar Committee?
The Calendar Committee is comprised of parents, teachers, school administrators and central office administrators, with school staff having the largest representation on the committee.

Q. When developing a school calendar is there a minimum number of teaching days and hours that local school divisions are required to offer its students?
Yes. In accordance with state law, 115C-84.2, the length of every school’s calendar, must be at least 180 teaching days and 1000 instructional hours in any school year. Calendars contain two semesters, as close as possible to 90 days in length are recommended.

Q.  What are the requirements for start and end dates?
The Traditional school year must begin no earlier than August 25 and end no later than June 10.  Year Round schools are exempt from the mandated start & end date.

Q. Are there general requirements for a school calendar?
Yes. In accordance with state law 115C-84.2, school calendars are required to include the following:  180 student days and 1000 hours of instruction, 15 teacher workdays (5 of these days are protected days), 10 holidays, 10 annual leave days, and inclement weather make-up days.

Q. What are teacher workdays used for?
Law requires that teachers have 10 workdays that provide opportunities for teachers to participate in professional development opportunities and plan for the academic success of children.

Q. What are protected teacher workdays?
Law requires that 5 of the 15 teacher workdays must be reserved for teachers as protected workdays to perform classroom administrative and instructional duties.   One of the five days must be designated before school begins and one day must be positioned at the end of each quarter.  Protected teacher workdays cannot be used as inclement weather make-up days.

Q. What holidays must be observed in the school calendar?
In accordance with state law, the following holidays must be observed: Labor Day, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving (2 days), Christmas (2 days), New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, Good Friday, and Memorial Day.  Veterans Day is the only holiday that must be observed on the date observed in the United States Calendar.

Q. Does DPS have a plan for inclement weather and how many days are required?
Yes. DPS has an inclement weather plan.  The school calendar must include a plan for making up days and instructional hours missed because of inclement weather. The calendar committee recommends inclement weather make-up days when crafting school calendars and this plan can include using Utility Days.  Calendars are developed almost two years in advance and historical information is used when planning inclement weather make-up days.  However, if additional make-up days are needed, the Superintendent seeks input from school communities and members of the administrative and operational staff before recommending calendar makeup days to the school board. The goal is to identify enough make up days in advance so that school staff and parents have time to make alternate arrangements.

Q. What are Utility Days and how are they used?
Utility day(s) are days off for students and staff members unless it is needed to make-up instructional days due to inclement weather.  Each year the calendar committee determines whether or not a utility day is needed.

Q. Instead of considering holidays and Spring Break days as make-up dates for inclement weather, why not extend the traditional school year?
The State Board end date (June 10) requirement and the need to reserve high school graduation ceremony dates far in advance prevents this suggestion as an option. However, the Board of Education can request an exception to this in cases where a school district has been closed an average of eight days per year during any four of the last 10 years because of severe weather conditions, energy shortages, power failures, or other emergencies. Durham County is typically not subjected to the severe weather conditions that can plague other North Carolina cities and counties, particularly in the rural and mountainous regions of the state. Consequently, the school district must adhere to the state law in this regard.

Q. Since the school district is unable to extend the traditional school year is there a possibility of starting school year prior to August 25, thus allowing more flexibility to the school calendar?
In accordance with state law (115C-84.2), public schools are prohibited from starting school prior to August 25.

Q. Can Saturdays be used as inclement weather make-up days and how will that work?
Saturdays can be used as inclement weather make-up days.  If a Saturday date is needed, the Saturday immediately following the inclement weather day can be used to ensure that schools meet 180 teaching days and 1000 hours of instruction requirement.

Q. What are PLC (Professional Learning Communities)?
PLC days provide instructional teams with the time to evaluate data, discuss and monitor student interventions that support student achievement and continuous instructional improvements.  PLC days are held once a month, approximately 8 times a year, and students are dismissed 2 hours early from school.