Tupelo reduces early-release school days

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Tupelo’s students will have fewer early dismissal days this year.
The district’s school board voted on Tuesday to decrease the number of 60 percent days from seven to three for the current school year.
The district has already had one such day on Aug. 29, leaving Sept. 26 and Oct. 31 as the only remaining early-release days. Sept. 26 is also a parent-teacher conference day, and Oct. 31 is Industry Education day for Tupelo and Lee County teachers.
The 60 percent days were designed to give teachers time to train in the afternoon after the students had been released around noon. New Superintendent Gearl Loden said they cut too much into instructional time, however, especially at Tupelo High School, which is on a block schedule.
“It was really hurting our day,” Loden said, noting the high school has to serve lunch from 9 to 11 a.m. on the early-release days.
Plus, Loden said, the district has added other times for teachers to receive training. All Tupelo teachers now meet on Wednesday afternoons for various kinds of professional development, and the district uses a new online program that allows teachers to watch training videos that can help them with individualized areas of focus. Because the videos are on the Internet, teachers can watch them on their own time.
Educators also are able to do some exercises during their planning periods, said Leigh Mobley, executive director of curriculum and instruction.
Tuesday’s calendar change makes Nov. 28, Jan. 30, Feb. 27 and March 27 full school days. Each had been 60 percent days.
Students will still get out of school early on the last day of each semester. Next year, the Mississippi Department of Education will not allow any 60 percent days except the final days of each semester, Loden said.
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com