desk stock file photo school

During a tour of the West Jefferson High School with coronavirus precautions it can be seen that each desk in the classroom has a grey or red sticker on the top corner in Harvey, La. Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020. Each period, students will be asked to alternate their use of desks and to clean them off after each class. The school is scheduled to open on August 26. (Photo by Max Becherer, NOLA.com, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

After setting aside controversial plans to start the new school year two weeks early, East Baton Rouge Parish Superintendent Sito Narcisse is now asking the School Board for a new 2021-22 calendar with an August start date, but with more days of professional training before students show up.

The School Board is scheduled to consider the revised calendar when it meets at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Professional Development Center, 3000 N. Sherwood Forest Boulevard. If approved, it would replace the 2021-22 calendar the board approved March 18, barely a month ago.

The new calendar drops the controversial idea of adding eight instructional days to the beginning of the school year in favor of finding more time for instruction, as well as teacher training, during the traditional school year.

In a memo to the board dated Wednesday, Narcisse said he’s settled on what he calling Option 1A, a modified version of one of four possible new calendars he released earlier in the week. It calls for school employees to return to work on Monday, Aug. 2 but pushes back when students return by two days to Wednesday, Aug. 11. That increases from five to seven the number of professional development days that employees will undergo before students come back from summer break.

The calendar, however, turns three half “early release” days in December and three more in May into full days for students. Also, fall break would shrink from three to two days. And the school year would be slightly longer, a day more for students and a day longer for teachers.

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In making his recommendation, Narcisse said he convened advisory councils this week of principals, teachers, students and parents, as well as reviewed 7,000 responses to a districtwide survey issued Tuesday afternoon.

“It is my belief that this will better meet the needs of the community while still providing important additional classroom time and professional development,” Narcisse wrote.

At its meeting, the board is also considering the following unrelated actions:

  • Closing Brookstown Middle School next month and merging it with Capitol Middle School in order to make way for EBR Readiness Superintendent Academy, which has been trying for years to get out of the dilapidated facility which use to be home to Banks Elementary.
  • Keeping overall school property tax millages for 2021 at 41.25 mills rather than “rolling forward” to 43.45 mills, the rate that was in effect in 2019. The board inadvertently rolled back millages to 41.24 mills last year, despite the recommendation from then-Supt. Leslie Brown to roll them forward and reap $9.2 million from the parishwide reassessment of property. Now, Narcisse is recommending, without explanation, that the board keep millage at the lower 41.25 mills, foregoing millions in property tax revenue for at least one more year.

Email Charles Lussier at clussier@theadvocate.com and follow him on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.