Roanoke City Council and school board talked briefly Monday about an extended school year and the issue will likely come up again today when the city school board meets. The proposition is an interesting one and something I thought we could explore a bit more here.
Superintendent Rita Bishop says she supports a longer year, but admits it’s not without obstacles. I found this statement she made Monday to be incredibly powerful:
“When you have children with poverty issues an extended school year could be a miracle.”
Obviously an extended year where students would attend school more than just the traditional 180 days would give educators more time with students, which with all the standards that must be taught in a year could be a welcome change. Students could also avoid some of the dreaded “summer slide” each year where kids experience a learning loss in the summer when they’re out of school.
But there’s also a question of cost (and that was touched on briefly Monday). How does a system pay for a longer school year? There’s teachers to pay and probably upped utility and supply costs. Schools have had a tough enough time finding the funds for a traditional year as school systems have limped through the recent recession. And officials would also need to get buy in from staffers.
A nearby school has made a longer year work and it’s paid off. Just down the road in Lynchburg, William Marvin Bass Elementary School operates on an extended year calendar.
School begins earlier and ends at roughly the same time and there are intersession breaks during the year where student can get extra help. An analysis by the Lynchburg News & Advance showed the school had “the best combined reading and math Standards of Learning test pass rates of any elementary school in the Lynchburg-area.”
Said then Superintendent Paul McKendrick: “I think the biggest thing is just more time.”
According to the article, Bass students get about 20 to 35 more days of instruction than other students.
The school went to the extended calendar in 2004 and as recently as November education officials were mulling calendar changes for the rest of the division.
So, what do you think? An extended year? Yay or nay? And why? And are you a student, educator or parent?