—Jaime McEachin, Head Copy Editor and Keara Meeley, Co-Head Web Editor —
During a discussion panel sponsored by the Cosby Politics Club on February 12, Chesterfield County and public school officials revealed the plan for testing year long schooling in a 2018-2019 pilot program at the first school to volunteer, Bellwood Elementary. If this pilot program is successful, the Chesterfield County Public School leadership will consider implementation of year long schooling in schools throughout the county.
The Chesterfield Observer reported that John Gordon, chief of schools for Chesterfield County Public Schools, briefed the School Board on the proposal during its work session on the afternoon of Feb.12. Gordon noted that “staff began studying a year-round school model because of concerns about summer learning loss – particularly for economically disadvantaged students – and a lack of access to healthy meals for those same children when schools are closed.
Bellwood and other schools would have a minimum of 180 days of instruction per year, and would go to school for nine weeks at a time and then the next three weeks off, in a replacement of the traditional model of summer break. Bellwood’s 2018-19 school year would begin July 23 and the first quarter would end Sept. 21.
Superintendent James Lane claims that 100% of teachers surveyed at Bellwood supported the year-round calendar. Surveys sent home with each of the school’s 557 students showed the change had a 88% approval rate with parents.
“The pilot program is expected to cost about $123,000 for the first year”, according to Lane, but “all but $30,000 of that will be covered by a federal grant Bellwood received last year.”
As the pilot goes on, evaluations of academic performance, will determine if as many as 150 students would be offered “opportunities for additional instruction during each three-week “intersession,”’ reports The Chesterfield Observer.
However this schedule change is not out of the blue, scientific studies have shown the potential benefits of year round schooling. According to a 2016 study from Statisticbrain, 13% of public school students are enrolled in year round schooling and 3,253 year round schools in the US. Many counties are beginning to plan the budget, insisting that the pros of implementing this change offset the millions of dollars that will be spent. The main argument against traditional schooling is the theory of the “summer slide”. This progressive loss of academic skills and knowledge over the course of the summer months can cause setbacks, especially within younger children, in subjects like reading and writing. Limiting breaks to three weeks is said to ensure a mental break from education, while preventing a loss of skills accumulated during the year. Year round schooling is also stated to relieve summer boredom and counter excessive absences. However these arguments are the standard three being made over and over again, and while these arguments can stand on their own, are they worth the millions of dollars needed to switch a school to all year schooling.
In order to receive these benefits, communities must give up all the aspects of traditional schooling that students, parents, and teachers enjoy. Students will lose the aspect of summer as a transition period between grades. The shorter breaks will also limit summer camp opportunities and programs such as summer sports programs. Parents with young children may have trouble finding childcare when there are more constant shooter breaks, and families with younger and older children may have conflicting break schedules, making it hard to family bonding and vacations. Teachers will no longer be able to pursue their own education during summer break, or work a second job to meet financial needs.
Depending upon your financial and situational needs, year round schooling may be beneficial to your education or the community around you. Despite this, the reality for chesterfield county is that the switch will not occur overnight. Budgeting alone for changing the school start times took three years! Between budgeting, gaining parental and teacher approval, hiring administration and creating new contracts, year round schooling is still out of reach.
Cover photo courtesy of Keara