Traditional summer break may soon be a thing of the past for two North Kansas City School District elementary schools.
By JILL SEDERSTROM
Special to The Star
The district is considering adding 31 days to the school calendar starting with the 2014-2015 year in an attempt to keep students from forgetting so much of what they’ve learned over the summer.
Under the proposed plan, students at the elementary schools, which have not been selected yet, would follow the regular school calendar for most of the year. Then after a short break starting at the end of May they’d return to the classroom June 10 and continue through July 28, with another short break around Independence Day.
“The students would continue through school just as normal,” said Daniel Clemens, assistant superintendent of administrative services.
Parents at the schools with the extended year would have the choice to move their children to an elementary school with a traditional schedule.
Clemens said the district was considering the change in response to the district’s strategic plan, which says the district will “identify an elementary school to volunteer in implementing a balanced school calendar.”
A special committee made up of teachers, administrators and the district’s national education association president was formed to study the issue.
According to a presentation given at last week’s board of education meeting, the committee hopes the modified calendar would prevent some of the academic regression that hits students over the summer months.
Chad Sutton, deputy director of elementary education, told board members that the Fountas and Pinnell assessment, which evaluates student reading ability, found some regression in students after testing them in both the spring and the fall.
Fourth grade students showed the most significant regression. The district found that just under 600 students tested below grade level expectations for reading in the spring. But when the same students were tested again in the fall, more than 700 of them tested below grade level expectations.
The district committee also analyzed results from an extended learning program for English Language Learners at Crestview Elementary and found a 26 percent increase in the number of students who maintained or increased their reading level as a result of the additional seven weeks of instruction, compared to those who didn’t participate.
The committee concluded that more days in the school year could help students.
“We needed to gain more days with our kids,” Clemens said.
The school district wants to make sure the change adds a significant number of contiguous days and does not change the budget.
Clemens said the committee considered having a summer schedule that differed from the regular school day — maybe dismissing earlier or running only four days a week — but decided against it.
“It needs to look like school because that’s what it is,” Clemens said.
He said the committee is trying to decide which two elementary schools will be the best fit for the calendar change and has identified five possibilities, although none were named.
The committee is considering assessment data, location, current capacity and the schools’ leadership. The committee is also examining the percentage of students who fall into the free and reduced lunch category and who are English Language Learners.
“All of the schools we selected have some regression issues,” Clemens said.
Superintendent Todd White said the district plans to name the two schools that are chosen at the school board meeting on Dec. 10 before approaching the board for final approval of the calendar change in January.
While board members took no action on the issue at last week’s meeting, some did support the idea.
“It’s been about 60 years since I could do a cartwheel, but if this flies I’ll be doing cartwheels,” said board member Terry Stone.