Questions and Answers on the Full and Half-Day
Schedule in the Niskayuna School District
1) Why does the school district schedule half-days?
A) By New York State Education Law, public schools are limited to September through June
to meet all education and attendance requirements, exclusive of all legal holidays,
weekends, or vacations. Half-days are used primarily for scheduled parent-teacher
conferences and for Superintendent Conference Days.
2) Why are there eight parent conference days at grades K-5 scheduled each school year?
A) Niskayuna has a long history of teachers scheduling both a Fall and Spring conference with
each elementary parent. Although it is time intensive, teachers and principals feel strongly
that holding two conferences encourages a stronger parent/teacher/school bond, and
permits deeper discussion about each child including reports on academic and social
development between the two conferences. Any learning issues can be addressed
proactivelyearly. Over many years, Niskayuna parents have consistently wanted to
maintain the number of elementary parent-teacher conferences.
3) Why are the number of parent conferences reduced in the middle schools?
A) Parent conferences at the middle level usually include the entire team of four teachers plus
often the special area teachers too. Conferences are scheduled either at the request of
parents or the team or the Child Study Team. Sixth graders have seven conference half-
days in the schedule while parents of students in grades 7-8 only have three half-days.
Sixth grade is viewed as a transition year between elementary and middle level and
teachers and principals feel that the conferences are often necessary to address both
learning and transition issues.
4) Why can't conferences be scheduled evenings or after school?
A) This question is asked frequently. The school district is sensitive to the challenges faced by
parents balancing work, family and schedules. However, scheduling multiple conferences
in the evening after a full work day erodes the quality of the conversation of both the
teacher and the parent. No one would mind being the first evening conference, but few
parents would want the last conference of the night. Further, it is difficult for a teacher to
conference with parents all evening, grade assignments, prepare lessons, and be an
effective teacher the next morning working with your child.
5) What do teachers and principals do on a Superintendent Conference Half or Full Day?
A) Maintaining academic excellence requires continually investing in training and
development of faculty, staff and administration. Teaching and learning are ever changing
with promising new strategies and practices frequently emerging from universities and
schools alike. There is strong research to support improvement in student achievement
linked to increased high quality professional development.
Teachers are often involved in helping identify and plan professional development
activities on these days. A variety of activities occur district wide. Some ~xamples of
these activities include: review of course curriculum and revision; construction of grade
level or departmental new assessments; strategies in improving student literacy and reading
skills; how to differentiate instruction in a classroom; meeting the needs of the highly able
student; or analyzing student assessment data to pinpoint skill areas that require greater
teacher emphasis. Many teachers also work during the summer on additional professional
development activities including curriculum writing, workshop attendance, and college
6) Why is the half-day dismissal time for grades K-5 so early?
A) The dismissal times for grades 1-5 on half-days is the same as the regular dismissal time
for the A.M. Kindergarten (10:35 a.m.). This is a resource issue because we lack the extra
buses or bus drivers to run an additional set of district bus runs simultaneously -
Kindergarten AND grades 1-5. Further, New York State Law requires a minimum half-day
of 2 Yz hours. Furthernlore, on certain half days, other school levels also need to be
dismissed eady including the middle schools and the high school.
7) Why does it seem that Ollr students have more half days than full days?
A) It only seems that way! New York State Commissioner of Education Regulation requires
that public schools be in session a minimum of 180 student days. Up to four
Superintendent Conference Days are counted towards the minimum requirement. The
Regulations also pel111itup to eight parent-conference half-days be used during the school
year. The actual average of full days district wide is 96.8% of the required 180 days of