Bill requiring schools to sync calendars nears completion

Posted April 03, 2012, at 5:26 p.m.
Last modified April 03, 2012, at 6:57 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Proposed legislation seeking to coordinate school calendars between school districts that share a career and technical education center, or CTEC, is transitioning out of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee and expected to be approved by the full Legislature, the bill’s sponsor said Tuesday.

Officials with the Department of Education believe that LD 1865, An Act to Enhance CTEC, would reduce the likelihood that scheduling conflicts would interfere with students’ ability to attend technical education classes.

“The committee recently voted ought to pass,” said Sen. Brian Langley, R-Ellsworth, who introduced the bill. “The support for it was very strong.”

As part of the legislation, districts sharing a center would have to develop a common school calendar with no more than five dissimilar days. The limit is now nine days.

All of the schools sending students to a center would have to be in or out of session at the same time except for five days. If one school is out of session and the other sending schools are not, that counts as a dissimilar day.

Because of scheduling issues with potato harvest breaks, the proposal has raised concerns among some schools in Aroostook County. School districts in Hodgdon, Houlton and Caribou are part of technical education centers where some of the member schools have a harvest break while the others do not.

Under the existing scenario, the schools would reach their limit of dissimilar days very quickly.

Langley said that amendments were made to the bill, but they did not include a waiver option for schools that have a harvest break.

“I think that they will work that out among themselves,” he said, adding that districts that could not meet the law because of extenuating circumstances could have their representative propose legislation to assist them. “There was a lot of talk about the harvest break, but the feeling that we got was that there were not a great deal of students left working on the harvest.”

If it passes, the measure also would ensure that students receive credit from their home high schools for all courses they take at a career and technical center. Sending schools also would have to ensure that bus schedules and other logistics do not prevent students from being able to participate in the full number of hours of instruction at the centers. Finally, the bill would require the community college system to review courses and award college credit to students who complete college-level work at a technical center.

Since school officials already had started preparing their schedules as the bill moved through the Legislature, it was amended last month to propose that the law take effect during the 2013-2014 school year.

If schools do not comply with the law, the state will withhold subsidies until they do.

Langley said he believes that the bill will be passed by the Legislature.

“I think that this bill strengthens education in our state,” he said Tuesday.

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