We've written before about how calendars - high tech and old fashioned paper - can help keep students and families on track. But there is one calendar that every family with school age children should have handy, and which they should review now as the school year begins - the calendar for their school or school district.
Whether this is available online via the school website, or is sent to families in paper format (a vanishing practice in this digital age), the school calendar can be a treasure trove of information. First, the obvious information about when school is in session and when vacations and days off are scheduled should be added to kids' and parents' personal calendars. Also take note of "optional snow days" if you are doing long-term vacation planning for your family. In the event of a snowy winter, school may continue longer into the spring than you anticipate.
Make note of when marking periods begin and end and when mid-term or final exams are scheduled for each semester. This will enable you to work with your child to make sure that he or she is up to date before each marking period comes to a close. Once the marking period ends, it is often too late to make up homework or exams your student may have missed, and this may be reflected in their grades. If your school still sends report cards home with students (another vanishing trend), make sure you know when report cards will be issued.
School calendars can be very basic, such as the one for New York City public schools, or serve as a handbook for families, with information about every aspect of school or district operations - from the tax code for your district to the names and contact information for every building and district administrator. Some districts also include contact information for PTA officers and -- particularly useful for parents of students with IEPs and 504 Plans -- the officers or liaisons to the Special Education PTA, if your district or school has one. For New York City parents whose children have IEPs or 504 Plans, you may also find helpful information geared to the beginning of the school year from the folks at Advocates for Children, with a list of Q & A for families of students with disabilities.