Monday, November 14, 2016

Starting School After Labor Day

Governor Hogan has issued an executive order that all public schools cannot begin the year for students until after Labor Day starting with next school year (2017-18 also known as FY18).  Calvert County Public Schools had already approved the school calendar for that year last spring, so we have reassembled the committee to make recommendations as to how we might build a new calendar that complies.

The FY18 calendar as approved earlier had five days of school prior to Labor Day so we must find 5 more instructional days for students.  Lengthening the year, deeper into June makes no sense because all of our big assessments take place in May.  So the committee must look at other options – teacher training days, traditional local days like Youth Day for the County Fair and lengthy holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Spring Break. 

Talking about school calendar always leads to an interesting and varied discussion about priorities. 

Our school calendar is still a reflection of the agrarian society that existed 100 years ago.  Many families raised a lot of their own food and relied on the labor of the children to get the job done.  Now, many families rely on a school-less summer as a time for vacation, a time to develop a specialty athletic skill or just as a time for children to get a break from school.  Still, we recognize that for many working families, there is no vacation to the beach, no science camp, no sports camp.  For many, the added expense for child care takes all the discretionary funds from the family budget that may have paid for such things.

That loooong, often 10 week summer vacation, is not really good for children and learning.   Believe it or not, some don’t pick up a book all summer. 

If we really wanted to build the best calendar for student learning, we wouldn’t be advocating for longer summers and longer Christmas breaks and longer Spring breaks.  Instead, we would maximize student opportunity for success.  Most of us believe that all children can learn, but some need more time than others, so our first caveat of a calendar could be that students who demonstrate mastery of the material can go home until the next class starts.    Not every child can learn everything they need to know in exactly 180 days.  Some may do it in 150 and others may need 210. 

When you think about it, you know that there are tons of things we do at school to manage each individual child’s unique learning needs - large group, small group, individual instruction.  But, we insist that all 15,500 students start and end school each year on the exact same day.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could be that flexible and keep the school doors open year round until the last child is successful?     Those who finish early could choose to be on vacation or choose an enrichment course or perhaps choose to jump right in to another challenging course. 

Year round school would improve our chances to get every child career and college ready.