KATY, Texas (KTRK) --Relief is in sight for Katy ISD students who feel the pinch from massive loads of homework -- for a few days, at least.
For the upcoming 2017-2018 school year, the district has designated more than half a dozen Family Nights on which teachers cannot assign homework.
"The main purpose is to promote families coming together. We want them to spend some time together...and obviously for the students, no homework," said Katy ISD superintendent Lance Hindt.
On the final version of the district's calendar, Sept. 13, Oct. 18, Nov. 29, Jan. 24, March 7 and May 2 are all designed as Family Days.
The decision comes after students and parents alike lobbied the district for homework-free nights during leadership meetings with Hindt.
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In an effort to encourage more family time, Katy ISD has adopted a new practice within its 2017-18 instructional calendar in which no homework will be assigned to students.
Being named a District in Innovation, Katy ISD reserved the rights to allow this policy to go into effect.
“In every month of the calendar will include a designated family night,” said Maria DiPetta, Manager of Media Relations and Multimedia with the district. “On those days, teachers will not assign homework to students. This practice ensures the district giving our hard working students a break from the academic demands that they have every day.
“This will allow them more time to enjoy their families,” DiPetta said. “Family engagement is why we are promoting the family night. This cannot just happen at the school level but it has to happen at the home level as well and that is something this whole district supports.”
DiPetta said the idea for no homework nights started last year as a small idea.
“We had some campuses last year test this out,” DiPetta said. “Then we expanded it to some of our feeder patterns.”
The first “no homework” day is scheduled for Sept. 13.
DiPetta explained that a family of three living in the Cinco Ranch area with kids attending Cinco Ranch Elementary, Cinco Ranch Junior High and Cinco Ranch High school. If the high school had the no homework night, then the feeder pattern would be that the junior high and elementary would also have a no homework night.
“This would allow the whole family to enjoy the whole family night,” DiPetta said. “Ultimately, the superintendent and the principals in the district realized that the kids loved this idea to promote families coming together. We then took the extra step and included this policy in the new instructional calendar.
“This created a lot of discussion and every month Dr. Hindt meets with students from the schools and that was definitely something that was brought up and he took the time to listen to what they had to say,” DiPetta said. “They expressed to him that they wanted to see less homework on some days and he heard them out and responded by designating one day of almost every school month.”
DiPetta pointed out there are a couple of months with no designated family night but those months normally run with months that the district is out for Christmas and Thanksgiving breaks.
School districts across the Houston area have pushed for the District of Innovation assignment. By having this designation, the district is allowed to have more control over items such as how and what is being taught in the classroom.
“One of the benefits of being a District of Innovation is that we can start school on Aug. 16 instead of the fourth week in August,” DiPetta said. “The school times will remain the same but when a district becomes a District of Innovation it has the flexibility to initiate revisions in the Texas Education Code.
“The main reason for changing the flexible calendar was to balance the amount of instruction time,” DiPetta said. “More had to be forced into instruction the fall semesters as opposed to taking it in the spring. By starting early, it allows us to end early and now seniors can graduate and go right into their summer semesters at college.”
DiPetta pointed out that this year, the district would take a full week off of school for the Thanksgiving break as opposed to the three days as was the case last year.
School for Katy ISD students starts earlier this year but will end before the Memorial Day holiday this school year.
“This was something that was brought to Dr. Hindt’s attention and he has always been hands on when it comes to student’s concerns,” DiPetta said. “He made sure that this practice received the needed attention that it deserved. We are happy to say that in our flexible calendar we are happy to include it in there.”