Let me be frank: the decision to close school for two days for the parent-teacher conferences (PTCs) will probably not feature in my top 10 most popular decisions ever. My ears are burning in a record-breaking fashion—and being an incurable hypochondriac, I’m beginning to worry I’ve got a ruptured eardrum.
You might remember that several parents expressed discontent last year with the number of days off and the childminding headaches they caused. These days off fall into three different categories. First, there are the “comfort” days—at The École, we sometimes add an additional day off after Thanksgiving or Memorial Day weekend so our families can avoid the post-holiday traffic, or we prolong the winter holidays for similar reasons. Second, there are the holidays decided by the City of New York, which, in the praiseworthy pursuit of celebrating the city’s diversity, has recently added Diwali, Juneteenth, Eid, and the Lunar New Year to its list of school holidays. Finally, there are staff training and professional development days.
Bearing all of this in mind, and because our growing student body complicates the task of organizing the PTCs (from Elementary up, our teachers need to see between 35 and 50 families!), we sought a new format for this year. Naturally, we looked into what other schools do – particularly our partners at Léman—and that is how the two-day PTCs took shape.
I had an inkling that the decision might not go over well, and so I worked out a compromise—staff training and professional development days were removed from the calendar—to the dismay of the team—as were the so-called comfort days—sometimes the days were one and the same. We were also “lucky” this year because we could incorporate some city holidays into our breaks, while others fell on weekends. All things being considered, even with extra time for PTCs, our students attend school two more days in 2023-2024 in comparison to 2022-2023!
We will now draw lessons from this fall’s PTCs to help us decide on the format they will take next year. Was the experience less stressful? Did parents feel they had more time with their child(ren)’s teachers? Do we need to stick to a one-size-fits-all format from Maternelle through Middle School? We’re already working on the school calendar for 2024-2025 and reckoning with the fact that several city holidays won’t fall on a Saturday or a Sunday next year (it looks like we’ll have to compensate by finishing later in June 2025 than we do in June 2024).
Despite the burning ears, I will still listen to all feedback, particularly during my monthly breakfasts, and will continue making decisions based on your comments, our expertise, and our constraints. My decisions may not always be popular, but I can promise you they are never made lightly and are always the result of much thought and reflection.