G-A School Board goes with competency-based calendar instead of traditional schedule

Shawn Hardy
Echo Pilot

The Greencastle-Antrim School Board stepped away from tradition and approved a competency-based calendar for the 2021-22 school year on Thursday, April 1.

The schedule for next year has been discussed since February, when the possibility of continuing the virtual Wednesdays of the COVID-19 pandemic was mentioned.

The first day of school for 2021-22 will be Thursday, Aug. 19, and the last day is Thursday, May 26, under the calendar approved April 1 by the Greencastle-Antrim School Board.

Several board members stressed before the April 1 vote that the competency-based calendar does not feature virtual Wednesdays like the current year.

Instead, it includes 11 at-home Wednesdays designated "competency immersion days" as the district focuses on the six core competencies adopted earlier this year.


Two calendars were given to the board on March 18, one traditional and one competency-based.

The traditional calendar represents the past and the competency-based calendar represents the future, said Dr. Lura Hanks, superintendent, as she recommended the competency-based version.

More:Will Greencastle-Antrim schools follow traditional or competency-based calendar next year?

More:Greencastle-Antrim School District Destination Design team creates Portrait of a Graduate

The board voted 7-2 in favor of Hanks' recommendation.

Board member Tracy Baer, who voted "no" along with Lindsey Mowen, said she thinks the competency-based calendar is moving in a good direction, but she's not sure the kids, parents, community and teaching staff are ready for it year.

After a year of COVID-19, she feels they just want to go back to normal and are tired of change.

Virtual Wednesdays are one change that was in the cross-hairs of many parents who responded to a survey about how the district is doing after its latest "drop anchor" day in February.

"This is not virtual Wednesdays," said board member Shannon Yates, who is not a proponent of the one day a week when students are all online based on the experience of his family.

This is competency-based calendar adopted for 2021-22 in the Greencastle Antrim School District.

The competency-based calendar eliminates the interruptions of early dismissal days and provides teachers time to collaborate so they are more on the same page and education is equitable across the board, Yates said.

He pointed out there is still planning to do for competency immersion days. The proposed schedule for those 11 Wednesdays is 7:30 to 9:30 a.m.: live virtual sessions to review project criteria and expectations, provide feedback and focused instruction with large or small groups; 9:30 to noon: self-paced learning tasks according to "project action plan" and collaborative time for teachers to work together; noon to 12:30: lunch; and 12:30 to 3 p.m.: learning and coaching conferences with students and families; support sessions, live or in-person.

Three teams — instructional design, literacy leadership and curriculum design — are working to plan how the district moves forward with the core competencies of a G-A graduate identified by the Destination Design Team in the fall and early winter and adopted by the board Feb. 4.

Some members of the Greencastle-Antrim School District's Destination Design team are shown during a virtual meeting where they talked about the five competencies that make up their Portrait of a Graduate.

The competencies are critical thinking and social responsibility; creativity and innovation; literacy and communication; physical and emotional health; and general knowledge and academic preparation.

"Growth happens within change," said Shannon Blanchard, school board president, who added the district has the opportunity to be bold and set an example as it prepares students for an unknown future.

"This is a logical time to keep moving forward," said board member Pat Fridgen, who noted she was surprised by the results of a survey of district families related specifically to the two calendar options.

Asked to select which calendar they support, 775 (53.2%) said the traditional version and 664 (46.8%) went with the competency-based one.

Fridgen said she thought 75% would go with the traditional calendar.

Calendar details

The 2021-22 school year will begin Thursday, Aug. 19, and will end on Thursday, May 26, the only early dismissal day on the calendar. Graduation is set for June 4.

Competency immersion days will be Sept. 29, Oct. 13. Oct. 27, Nov. 24. Dec. 22, Jan. 12, Feb. 2, Feb. 9, March 16, March 30 and April 13. May 11 is set aside as Competency Exhibition Day, when all students would present a "portfolio of evidence" of their growth in the competencies to families, peers and teachers.

Vacation days include Sept. 6, Nov. 11, Nov. 25 through Nov. 30, Dec. 23 though 31, Feb. 21 and April 14 through 19.

School will not be in session during in-service days on Oct. 11, Jan. 17 and March 21.

This slide shows what Destination Design is and is not about.

Learning 2025

In her presentation prior to the vote, Hanks talked about Learning 2025: The National Commission on Student Center, Equity Focused Education.

The AASA, The School Superintendent's Association, with an array of stakeholders, has created the commission to develop recommendations on transforming education to be more student-centered, equity-focused and forward-reaching. The commission's chief objective is to safely and equitably prepare all students for a workplace and society of the future, according to January 2021 information on a slide Hanks included in her presentation.

"The current model of education was designed for a different time and purpose," Hanks said.

Dr. Lura Hanks, G-A superintendent

"The effects of the global pandemic, combined with the economic downtown and civil unrest, have created a cultural tipping point — a point in time when we need to be bold," according Daniel A. Domenech, AASA executive director. "We need to step out and make recommendations about bold ideas that will pave the way to help shape and prepare students for the future."

Top 10 Skills in Learning 2025 are complex problem-solving; critical thinking; creativity; people management; coordinating with others; emotional intelligence; active listening; service operation; negotiation; and cognitive flexibility.

Hanks said she is proud how Learning 2025 aligns with the district's core competencies.