By: Ben Haut, WKVI
Published: March 5th, 2014
The first in series of public meetings to discuss the proposed implementation of a balanced calendar for area schools took place last night at the North Judson-San Pierre Elementary School, and while the topic is a hot one, the public did not turn out en mass. Roughly 20 attendees were present for the presentation, with some offering questions and comments following the presentation by Superintendent Lynn Johnson.
One note Johnson was quick to make is that a balanced calendar is by no means a year-round calendar; rather, this setup would still consist of 180 school days, but would feature eight weeks off in the summer and two-week intercessions after every eight weeks. The school year would still start in August and end in early June.
Johnson said during her presentation that most research shows a slight correlation between the balanced calendar and improved test scores, and all studies show a dramatic increase in attendance attributed to families having more opportunities to plan vacations during breaks. Additional studies also show a dramatic decrease in discipline referrals, and other research revealed that the drop-off in student retention over long summer breaks averaged a loss of 2.6 months of grade-level equivalency in Math, two months for Reading, when using a traditional calendar; however, that dropped to one and 0.8 months respectively within balanced calendars.
Another benefit of the balanced calendar, Johnson said, is student athletes would have spring and fall breaks; currently, these students still have athletic responsibilities that prevent them from taking those days off. The balanced calendar, however, would feature two weeks – one in fall and one in spring – during which all school activities would cease. Also, those two-week breaks could be used for remediation, allowing students to get caught up during the intercession.
There are, of course, some concerns. Johnson said there could be conflicts with special education and vocational classes if all schools are not on the same calendar, and summer conflicts like AAU, state fair, military, camps and teacher conferences could occur. Students could be provided with transportation to attend remediation, and Johnson said funding that is currently used for summer school could be used to fund that transportation.
One question raised was why the corporation would be interested in making such a drastic change to their school year when the corporation’s ISTEP scores have been improving. Johnson said the corporation is interested in it because she believes it would allow teachers to really focus more on struggling children and provide more opportunities for students to succeed.
No one in the audience spoke up strongly against the idea. If this new calendar is approved, it could be implemented for the 2015-2016 school year.
Another public meeting will take place on Thursday, March 6 at 7 p.m. at the high school auditorium.