For many school administrators, the start of August means that it’s time to prepare for the new school year in earnest. One practical, though vexing annual task is to reconcile one’s personal and school calendars for the year. I like my personal calendar to include the school’s key dates, so that I don’t accidentally schedule meetings opposite key school events. However, our school uses Microsoft Outlook, which is notoriously challenged at reconciling multiple calendars in a useful way. If you use Google Calendar or Apple’s Calendar app, you may be able to just subscribe to your school’s calendar events.
Imported calendar files typically show all events as “busy,” making it difficult for others to accurately see when I am free for meetings. For example, if I import “blue day” into my calendar to note the school schedule, I shouldn’t look booked all day! With a small technical change, I can import all school events into my calendar as “free” and then mark the ones I want as busy.
1. Download your school’s calendar to an ICS file. In the example below, I changed “webcal://” to “http://” in order to download the content in a file.
2. Open the ICS file in your favorite text editor.
3. Insert “TRANSP:TRANSPARENT” into all VEVENT entries. To do this, I replaced all occurrences of “END:VEVENT” with “TRANSP:TRANSPARENT” + new line + “END:VEVENT.”
4. Check time zone compatibility. For example, my calendar file used “TZID=America/Los_Angeles,” but Outlook only recognizes “Pacific Time (U.S. & Canada).”
5. Test import: make a copy of the ICS file, delete everything after the first week of calendar appointments, and then import the test ICS file into your calendar application. Check for errors and make additional adjustments to the full ICS file as needed.
6. Import the full ICS file into your calendar application, inspect the results, and mark selected items as “busy.” I used Outlook for Windows to conduct the import.