So long, summer! Some schools moving to year-round calendars - News, Weather & Sports

So long, summer! Some schools moving to year-round calendars

Dr. Louis Jensen (Source: WAVE 3 News) Dr. Louis Jensen (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Harrie Buecker (Source: WAVE 3 News) Harrie Buecker (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - If you feel like summer vacation is getting shorter, it's not in your head. It's already coming to an end for some Kentuckiana students. The first day of class in some southern Indiana school districts is this week.

A lot of parents say they don't think shorter summer breaks are in the best interest of their children. Educators argue, the longer the vacation, the more kids lose what they've already learned, particularly students who already are behind.

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While at Atlantis Water Park in Clarksville, soaking up the last few days without school, T.J. Fitzgerald, a mother of three, was asking where summer vacation went.

"It has gone by pretty fast," said Fitzgerald.

July 31 is the earliest Clark and Floyd County schools have ever started class.

"Just kind of short and seems like it's over way too quickly," said Beverly Nash, a grandmother of students in southern Indiana.

They call it a balanced calendar. The first day for students in Clark and Floyd counties is two weeks before students in Jefferson County Public Schools go back to class, but school ends in Clark and Floyd Counties one day after JCPS begins its summer break. Students in Clark and Floyd will get more days off during the year, including fall and spring breaks when students who are falling behind have the option to forgo vacation and attend remediation classes to catch up.

"It gives us a really great opportunity to address those students who need to be accelerated in math and English, and we wouldn't have that time otherwise," said Dr. Louis Jensen, director of high schools for New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated Schools.

Harrie Buecker, UofL's liason for district and school partnerships, says shortening summer break is all about fighting what's called the summer slide, when students forget what they've learned during the previous school year. Buecker's research shows summer slide especially impacts students at poverty-level and on free and reduced lunches.

"They can slide backwards as much as two grade levels over the summer without any interventions," Buecker said, "which is very alarming."

No district in our area has more of those under privileged students at risk for a massive summer slide than JCPS. This year JCPS is starting school a week earlier than it did last year, but is also scheduled to get out of school a week earlier as well keeping the longer summer breaks intact.

Mike Raisor, JCPS Chief Operating Officer, said they haven't taken the year round concept completely off the table. But right now JCPS is focused on a different approach. Putting its time and money into extending the school day three days a week at schools where students are falling behind.

Study periods that are optional, but encouraged, for those that are struggling while still preserving the more traditional summer vacations.

"Families have a period of time they know that they can plan around, which is some of the push back you get from a year round calendar that just reshuffle the days," Raisor said, adding that "in some ways" he agrees with that criticism.

Buecker said the University of Louisville College of Education is heading up a summer boost program in conjunction with JCPS to try to reduce the summer slide for some JCPS students. She said they've had success, cutting the lost knowledge from two grade levels to one for students who attend.

Buecker also said district-wide gains won't be made without the wholesale calendar changes schools in southern Indiana have made.

"I think we are in a different day and age, and we can't afford to lose any children," said Buecker.

Buecker said Bardstown City Schools and Eminence Independent Schools were the first in our region to go to more year-round calendars in the mid-1990s with good results.

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