Chesterton Tribune

 

 

A Duneland What if? School Board probes the benefits and drawbacks to year round calendar

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

It’s been known in the past as “year-round schooling,” a concept that has been debated for decades now, in which school schedules are spread out more evenly throughout the year.

In fact, it’s being referred to more and more as “balanced” school scheduling where classes would be in session for nine weeks for 45 school days, let out for three weeks for 15 days off, and start the pattern again.

Year-round or balanced schedules may be a touchy subject for some students who covet their long summer vacations, but the payoff is they would get extra days or weeks for fall and spring breaks.

It should be noted however that traditional and balanced calendars have the same number of school days --180 as required by law. They are structured differently and have their own set of pros and cons.

A new school calendar for the Duneland Schools may be a long way off, perhaps it will never change, but just for kicks the school board introduced the topic for its new discussion meeting series.

“We have very little control over what’s on the outside such as the Indiana General Assembly but we do have control from within to schedule the school year,” said Board President Ralph Ayres.

Board members plan to hold a series of these meetings to educate themselves, employees, parents, students and the general public on subjects that could affect Duneland from inside or outside the realm of public education, Ayres said. The board intends to hold discussion meetings on a quarterly basis throughout the year.

Duneland for 120 years or so has used the same calendar, letting out in early June and starting in late August. This started so children could help their on their families’ farm.

As society began to be less agricultural, some schools in the western part of the nation changed their calendars and found that students were better able to retain what they learned in classes.

Summer learning loss

Presenting research gathered from the Department of Education, Duneland Assistant Superintendents Jim Goetz and Monte Moffett described “Summer Learning Loss,” where students lose about 1-2 months of knowledge picked up in the classroom over their 60 day summer break.

Shortening that gap would mean better retention and overall better student performance and fewer disciplinary issues, they said. Students do not feel as stressed or “burned out” with balanced calendars but there are potential drawbacks in how it affects communities, Moffett said.

“If it were a perfect system, everyone would be doing it,” Moffett said.

Longer breaks, shorter summers

Other than the traditional calendar, Goetz and Moffett discussed three other calendars.

- Modified-Traditional: Students start the first week of August, have six days off in October after nine weeks, a three-day break for Thanksgiving, the first semester ends at winter break, two weeks off for winter break, spring break is a week and a half long, semester ends before Memorial Day, students have all of June and July off.

- Modified-Balanced: School starts at the end of July, students have two weeks off in the fall after nine weeks, first semester ends at winter break which will be two weeks, students will have two weeks off for spring break after nine weeks, the semester ends before Memorial Day, students have eight weeks off for the summer.

- Balanced: Similar to modified-balanced but students have only six weeks off for summer break starting at end of May and the new year beginning in the middle of July. Fall and spring breaks will be three weeks after 45 student days, winter break will be two weeks long.

Goetz said that snow make-up days can be moved around in any of the balanced calendars. The extended weeks that the school is out, students can take remediation courses and there would still be time made for athletics and student clubs. Professional development days for teachers will be included in all schedules.

Reactions

Board Vice-President Kristin Kroeger polled about 20 teachers who attended the meeting and a strong majority of them liked the idea of having the fall semester end before winter break instead of later in January. That would relieve high school and middle students from having to worry about final exams over their break.

Although balanced calendars are geared to cutting down on summer learning loss and allow for increased continuity of instruction, elementary teachers in the audience felt that two or three week breaks could have a negative impact on younger students when they return to school in the middle of the semester.

“It would be like starting the year over again,” one teacher told the board.

Family schedules are a factor that too would be impacted by calendar changes, audience members said, and that parents would have to figure out childcare during the breaks although it is possible they would be able to adapt.

Board members Mike Trout and John Marshall added that there will also be pressure on summer work schedules and businesses that rely on hiring high school students.

If the calendar ever did change, it would have to “fit right” in agreement with the community, staff and students, Duneland Superintendent of Schools David Pruis said noting that “what works in one community doesn’t necessarily work for another.”

Pruis also said that the seven public school corporations in the county follow the same calendar essentially because of the vocational programs shared by Porter County Education Services and would have to adapt to changes together.

Chesterton High School Principal Jeff Van Drie said athletics should be able to work with a new calendar, but that there would be problems for the music departments which need regular practice schedules for solo and ensemble competitions.

Board member Ron Stone said he asked his children what calendar they prefer and Trout solicited opinions from a few of his co-workers and found both showed some favorability toward the modified options.

Moffett and Goetz said they intend to continue researching balanced school calendars and get feedback from the community in case Duneland decides in the future to seriously consider the idea.

Input welcome

Pruis said anyone wanting to give their views on the different calendars can mail a letter to the Duneland Administration Center, 601 W. Morgan Ave., Chesterton, IN 46304. Please write on the envelope Attention: School Calendars.

Comments can be emailed to schoolcalendars@duneland.k12.in.us.

Schools in Indiana

Balanced school calendars are very rare in Indiana. Goetz said that schools in Goshen have made plans to transition over from traditional to modified-balanced but didn’t mention any others.

 

 

Posted 11/19/2015

 
 
 
 

 

 

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