Early release days will return next year at Aspen School District | AspenTimes.com

Early release days will return next year at Aspen School District

Board of education approves updated academic calendars for next two school years

Buses line up at the Aspen School District Bus Barn on Wednesday, August 26, 2020. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Early release days will be back on the Aspen School District calendar for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 academic calendars.

The Board of Education approved modifications Wednesday to next year’s already-adopted calendar and also adopted the calendar for the year after.

The early-release days are scheduled for the second Wednesday of every month, Superintendent David Baugh said during Wednesday’s meeting. (There are still some transportation logistics to be worked out.)

The district eliminated early-release days on the 2021-22 academic calendar and instead added more all-day professional development dates when staff would come to school but students would not.

Previously, an early-release day program provided teachers with a couple hours to use for planning, meetings and collaboration on Wednesdays. School community members have indicated that they miss that time for weekly planning and what Baugh called “vertical meetings.”

The district approves academic calendars two years out, but district officials decided to modify next year’s calendar as well in part “because of the urgency and the pressing need to get some time for vertical meetings,” he said.

The calendars for the next two years still include some all-day professional development dates in addition to the early-release dates.

Last year, the calendar approval process was defined by a lack of consensus as the district tried to meet the needs of different groups.

Baugh noted last year that elimination of the early-release days alleviate an added child care burden for working parents and offer more time in the classroom for students regrouping from a “COVID slip” in pandemic learning loss. But it also had impacts on competitive athletes who used that time to train, and on teachers who used the time to plan.

A split schedule also was implemented last year as part of the calendar, with elementary schoolers starting and ending earlier than middle and high schoolers. A shortage of bus drivers was a prominent factor in that change.

The calendars that the Board of Education approved this week don’t include school start and end times, only start and end dates.