North Thurston explores a ‘balanced calendar’ school year
Picture this: a school year that potentially starts in August and ends in June, followed by a shorter summer break, but with more free time in fall, winter and spring.
The idea is called “balanced calendar” and it was recently the subject of a joint meeting between Lacey City Council and the North Thurston Public School Board. At first glance, it may look like a year-round school, but North Thurston Assistant Superintendent Monty Sabin has said it isn’t.
Students are currently in school for 180 days, and as part of the balanced calendar school year, that would not change, Sabin said during his presentation. But what would change is the way the school year is divided.
A district-formed steering committee of about 50 people, which includes students, parents and teachers, is exploring two approaches: a school year divided by a 45-day learning block, followed by 15 days off. in the fall, winter and spring, or a 45-day school period, followed by 10 days off in the fall and spring, but with a 15-day winter break.
Summer vacation would be reduced to 5-8 weeks, down from the traditional 11-week period, according to district data.
Why do this? The district, with encouragement and state grants, is trying to address student learning that is lost during traditional summer vacations, especially among low-income students.
During Sabin’s presentation, he showed a video that explained that low-income and middle-income students learn at the same rate during the school year, but during the summer the low-income student may not. not have the same learning opportunities as middle-income students. student In Grade 5, the cumulative effect of this learning loss for low-income students may mean that they are 2.5 to 3 years behind their middle-income peers.
Not only could the balanced schedule help with learning loss, but the district believes there are other benefits, Sabin said. With shorter but more frequent breaks, the district believes this will result in a better, more rested student, as well as less burnout and stress for teachers and staff. The holidays would still be observed, he said.
There are also things to be determined, such as childcare, the impact on student activities and sports, and the impact on the functioning of schools, especially in the summer when school construction usually takes place. .
Lacey City Councilor Lenny Greenstein asked if the state is requiring school districts to make the change.
Superintendent Deb Clemens responded that this is not a requirement, but that there is a statewide effort to explore the idea.
The Olympia school district is doing the same, spokeswoman Susan Gifford said on Friday.
“At the moment, we cannot come up with a precise timeline, as it takes time to continue this thoughtful exploratory work before potential next steps are taken,” she said.
The Tumwater School District is not currently working towards a balanced schedule, spokeswoman Laurie Wiedenmeyer said.
North Thurston plans to hold community forums on the topic and provide an update to the school board in January. A recommendation will be submitted to the board in May, and if approved by the board, the transition to a balanced schedule would begin in the 2022-2023 school year, followed by implementation next year, said the Deputy Superintendent Sabin.
For more information on the balanced calendar, the committee or to view the frequently asked questions, visit: https://www.nthurston.k12.wa.us/Page/25742.