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School Calendar 2.0: Shifting Agenda Triggers Varying Reactions

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Thursday September 05, 2013

Though children’s education may change from year to year, the traditional and familiar school calendar has remained status quo. The Vermont Superintendent’s Association (VSA) Education Quality Framework and the VT World-Class Education Agenda, is now proposing a change with a new agenda known as Calendar 2.0, that will reorganize the traditions of predictable routines based on the conventional school calendar.

Calendar 2.0 would still preserve the current 175 student days as required by Vermont Statute Title 16; however, the calendar would increase the amount of breaks or intersessions throughout the year rather, and cut back on summer vacation; school would begin one week earlier in August and end one week later in June. The intent is to explore different ways of enriching student education by offering frequent breaks to recharge and avoid the “summer slide” where students--especially disadvantaged students--could potentially regress in their academic learning over an extended period of time. 

Calendar 2.0 also rides on the following principles: Support learning/achievements for all students; provide opportunities for interventions during the school year for all students; provide opportunities for embedded teacher professional development and reflection; reduce student regression; increase access to language-rich environment (especially for ELL and low SES students); support positive school climate; distribute the pace of education in reasonable chunks for student learning; provide more effective instruction time--less need to review; maintain/promote academic momentum for students.

Additionally, in mid-July, the Champlain Valley Superintendent Association and Vermont Afterschool Inc. sponsored a “Partner Summit” where 13 state-wide and cross region partners, seven superintendents, 18 after school programs, six libraries and school leadership members convened to discuss the benefits of the proposed calendar.

Regional superintendents will vote yea or nay after proper reflection; the vote applies to all schools within the tech center region including Burlington Technical Center and the Center of Technology, Essex. If this takes effect, Calendar 2.0 will be implemented in Chittenden County, Franklin County, and Grand Isle.

Though Calendar 2.0 is designed with educational enrichment in mind, some parents and educators pinpointed flaws in its structure and have been vocal in their opposition. For instance, a response group, the Vermont Save Our Summer Coalition “S.O.S.”, has formed to voice their concerns. The coalition is comprised of parents, educators, and business owners that are promoting the continuation of the current school calendar. It’s developed a Facebook page, may possibly script a petition and protest, and have been present in several local publications. The Shelburne News published this list of their top ten concerns. 

Summer break provides critical learning and recharging time for educators and students

Summer in Vermont is short and special

There is no evidence to support the likelihood that the proposed calendar will improve student outcomes

Intercession programming will likely cost money and/or take money from other student programs

The new break periods will create childcare difficulties for working families

The new calendar will make the school-year “treadmill” run even longer

The calendar is incompatible with those of other institutions

Older students need an extended period available beyond the school year if they are to gain vital work, internship, and life skill experience

Separate remediation sessions during school-year vacations could stigmitize and demoralize children who are struggling academically

Kids do not have as much focus for long school days in the summer

Other concerns have been outlined in the Calendar 2.0 blogspot, www.schoolcalendar2.blogspot.com--the resource that houses general information about the new process and functions as an open forum for public questions. One parent addressed the argument that Calendar 2.0 would combat summer boredom:

“Don’t we keep hearing that we are an ‘over-scheduled society’...could summer boredom be OK?”

Financial resources for intersessions, whether all students have access to intersessions for continued learning, whether breaks would be purely recreational or set aside for projects, and how much of a say parents, educators, or anyone other than the voting superintendents have in this discussion have been hot topics of conversation.

There will be four community forums across the Champlain Valley Region this October to address all concerns surrounding Calendar 2.0 for the 2014-2015 school year:

Wednesday, Oct. 2, 6:30 p.m. Essex High School

Thursday, Oct. 3, 6:30 p.m. BFA St. Albans

Wednesday, Oct.9, 6:30 p.m. Burlington High School

Thursday, Oct. 10, 6:30 p.m Champlain Valley Union High School

Curious parents, educators, and citizens are encouraged to attend South Burlington school board meetings held 2-3 Wednesdays of each month at 7 p.m. Visit the SB School District site for location details, or view meetings online at retn.org.