Local school districts have approved 2014-15 school calendars that include ending the first semester in January and moving Spring Break to the week before Easter.
Charleston County, Dorchester District 2 and Berkeley County each approved their calendars this week after getting input from faculty, staff, community members and each other. Dorchester District 4 has not yet passed a calendar but typically coordinates with neighboring districts.
Constraints led to ending the first semester in January for all three districts, officials said.
State law requires that the school year be 180 days, include 10 teacher workdays/staff development days, start no sooner than the third Monday in August (this year, Aug. 18), and close for general elections (Nov. 4).
Charleston and Dorchester opted to have teachers return to the classroom Aug. 11, and students a week later. Berkeley teachers and students each start Aug. 12 and 19, respectively.
"We do hear from some parents, especially parents of kindergartners, when we start school on a Monday, but in all honesty, there are as many people who like it and our attendance is much better when we start on a Monday," said Dorchester 2 spokeswoman Pat Raynor.
The last day of school before Winter Break in each district will be Dec. 19. Students will return to class Jan. 5, and the semester will end Jan. 13 in Dorchester, Jan. 14 in Charleston and Jan. 15 in Berkeley.
Berkeley Superintendent Rodney Thompson said that is not ideal but helps the district meet three other requests from parents and faculty - not having a full week the first week of school, having a teacher workday at the end of each quarter, and being off the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
"To accommodate the semester ending in December, we would lose all three of those options," Thompson said. "(This calendar option) meets three of four needs. The other option would meet one of four needs."
Charleston County students will again have a five-day break at the end of the first semester, coinciding with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. This year, some parents said the break was too soon after the two-week winter vacation.
"We didn't have a lot of heartbreak about that," said Chairwoman Cindy Bohn Coats. "We can't finish the nine weeks until after Christmas, and teachers have to have time to wrap the first semester up."
In addition, because state-mandated High School Assessment Program testing is set for April 14 to 16, 2015, districts opted to schedule Spring Break for the week before Easter, March 30 to April 3. Easter is April 5.
"We all love the week after Easter and everybody was on board with it, then when the HSAP schedule came out ... our high school teachers and directors just felt that bringing kids back from Spring Break and starting HSAP the next day wouldn't work," Raynor said. Berkeley Deputy Superintendent Archie Franchini agreed that the earlier break "protects our HSAP testing and gives us five days for preparation when we return."
Unlike the other districts, Berkeley County students also are scheduled to be off April 6.
Each district also included teacher workdays throughout the year that could be converted to inclement-weather make-up days. This year, Berkeley and Dorchester scheduled their makeup days at the end of the school year.
Other calendar highlights:
Possible inclement-weather make-up days: Oct. 24, March 27 and June 5.
Thanksgiving break is a full week, Nov. 24-28.
The last day for students is June 4; the last day for teachers is June 5.
Dorchester District 2
Make-up days are Oct. 20, Jan. 12 and June 1.
The last day for students will be May 29; the last day for teachers is June 2.
Potential make-up days are Feb. 13, March 20 and April 6.
June 4 is the last day for students; teachers' last day is June 6.
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter. Diette Courrégé Casey contributed to this report.