FCAT change muddles school start date

For the past several years, the Brevard School District has been considered a “high performing” district because out of the 83 public schools in the county, not one received an “F” on its annual school report card from the state. Maintaining that reputation is important if the district wants to operate on a similar schedule for the 2012-2013 year.

Being a high performing district brings “perks,” according to school board vice Chairperson Amy Kneessy. One of those perks is that Brevard can set its own school calendar so that first semester ends before Winter Break, allowing students to vacation without worrying about studying for exams and to more closely follow college schedules. Using this model, students would return to school Aug. 8.

But, according to Kneessy, because of the changes in the way FCAT will be scored this year, there is a small possibility Brevard will not maintain “high performing” status and the State Department of Education will force the district to follow the state approved calendar, which does not permit students to return to school more than 10 days before Labor Day.

If even one Brevard public school receives a failing grade, the start date for students will move to Aug. 20.

Such a change could affect  family vacation plans, especially since the returning dates will be unknown until after the current school year ends.

“We are hoping to know the schedule by June or early July, but grades sometimes take longer than July 7 to come through,” Principal Rick Fleming said. “In a perfect world, we would know when we go back, but we live in an imperfect world.

“Initially, students will be happy that they get this extra time out of school,” he said. “But on the backhand, their summer is pushed back two weeks for the following year.”

By Tania Martin