In a move school officials say should provide more preparation for evaluation tests and more equally divide the academic year, Pickerington students will begin classes earlier than ever this year.
In one week, the Pickerington Local School District will open for the first day of school.
Although the school calendar has been trending earlier -- the 2013-14 school year started Aug. 19 -- this year's Wednesday, Aug. 13, start is the earliest yet.
According to new PLSD Superintendent Valerie Browning-Thompson, schools throughout the country have been starting earlier in recent years as they attempt to maximize learning retention.
In Pickerington, she said, officials also are seeking more time to evaluate students' learning levels at the outset of the year so they have time to prepare them for a variety of tests that can determine what type of instruction students must receive throughout the school year.
In some cases, those tests also dictate whether a student will advance to the next grade level.
"I certainly think (the earlier start) is an excellent idea," Browning-Thompson said. "You're seeing that trend more and more because of testing.
"The earlier they come in, the more days we get to prepare for these high-stakes tests."
Additionally, the Pickerington school board last February approved the 2014-15 calendar with an eye on ending the first semester Dec. 18.
In past years, the district would go on winter break with students having two weeks of first-semester classes to complete upon their return.
"Prior to this year, our students came back to school in January after winter break for about two weeks and then went into semester exams," said school board Vice President Lori Sanders. "We have looked for ways to change this that might provide for academic benefit."
Sanders said the board recently negotiated with teachers to return to work Aug. 10, which allowed for the earlier start of classes.
"In doing so, the semester ends at the winter break and allows for a somewhat balanced number of days in both semesters -- closer to even than it would have been prior," she said.
In addition to the Aug. 13 start of the school year, Browning-Thompson said parents and teachers should be aware there will be early dismissal on the first three days of school.
"This is to allow our (bus) drivers time to adjust to new routes," she said.
On Aug. 13, high school classes will end at 1:25 p.m., junior high classes will end at 2 p.m. and middle school sessions end at 2:35 p.m.
Those ending times will be 1:30 p.m., 2:05 p.m. and 2:40 p.m., respectively, on Thursday, Aug. 14; and 1:35 p.m., 2:10 p.m. and 2:45 p.m., respectively, Friday, Aug. 15.
Elementary classes will end at 3:40 p.m. each day.
The last day for the 2014-15 school year will be May 22.