A closer look at school in the summertime | SummitDaily.com

A closer look at school in the summertime

SUMMIT COUNTY – Summer isn’t sacred in the minds of some Summit School District officials and parents exploring alternative school calendars.Members of the district’s calendar committee returned with enthusiasm from a recent conference in San Diego, Calif., on year-round or “balanced” calendars. The alternative schedule shaves off weeks of summer vacation and lengthens other breaks during the school year. The total number of mandatory school days remains unchanged in most districts.”I went in (to the conference) very skeptical, but I came away with a really good feeling about year-round school,” said Kristin Yankowski, Summit High School math teacher.Yankowski and others on the calendar committee are meeting monthly to investigate how calendar changes in future school years could benefit student learning. According to proponents of balanced calendars, students’ retention of material they have learned during the school year drops off significantly after seven or eight weeks of vacation. “I would be a strong proponent of saying the board needs to look seriously at the implications of summer learning loss. It takes me a month to get kids to divide fractions when school starts again,” Yankowski said.Summit High School senior Bryndon Tarafa agreed that summer learning loss interferes with his academic progress.”My mind becomes numb mid-summer,” Tarafa said. “It takes a lot of time to get back in the groove. (The balanced) system would eliminate some of that numbness, and taking a month off in the middle of the school year would be refreshing. It sounds pretty appealing to me.”A sample balanced calendar contains six weeks of summer vacation, three days off for Thanksgiving and three weeks each of fall break, winter break and spring break.Proponents assert that balanced calendars can lower drop-out rates, reduce discipline problems and reduce teacher and student stress and absences. Potential disadvantages of balanced calendars include scheduling conflicts with family vacations, childcare and teachers’ professional development courses.

SHS junior Lizzy Auldridge said she would welcome more playtime in the winter to take advantage of Summit County’s winter recreation options.”It makes more sense,” Auldridge said. “We could have more time to go out snowboarding and experience where we live more. Now, we don’t really have time to get out there.”But freshman Viviana Baray said she’d rather have the entire summer to herself.Some school districts with balanced calendars offer “intersession” classes for remediation and enrichment. Having four opportunities throughout the year, rather than just summer school, allows for earlier and more frequent interventions for struggling students, which can be helpful for student athletes who find themselves below academic performance cut-offs.”Questions come up about sports more than anything else,” Yankowski said. “But the high schools I talked to really didn’t have a problem. If they were in intersession, they just made sure they had away games. Actually, it helped their athletics rather than hurt.”If the school district does decide to make the switch to a balanced calendar, the change would come two or three years down the road. In the meantime, the district is exploring other calendar options as well, including a regular early-release or late-arrival school day each week to allow teachers more time for staff development.”While we look at all these options, we will continue to carefully review the impacts these calendars might have on our community,” said Summit Middle School principal Iva Katz-Hesse, who chairs the calendar committee.The committee will meet next at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, March 14, at Summit Middle School. All its meetings are open to the public.Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at jsutor@summitdaily.com.

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