Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Susan Brown’s second and third graders say they love being in school year round for a variety of reasons. Herald photo by Nicole Vik.The pie graph pictured compares the year round school calendar to the traditional school calendar to showing how breaks are more evenly distributed. Contributed photo

Enrollment grows at SASD year-round school

In 2017, the Sparta Area School District adopted a year round school pilot program at Maplewood Elementary School as part of the school board’s strategic plan to expand learning environments to meet the diverse needs of students and their families.

The program has steadily grown since it was implemented. Students who will be in kindergarten through fourth grade for the 2019-20 school year, are currently being sought to continue the voluntary pilot program.

According to Principal Pat Olbert, the program is a “multi-track” with the two year round classrooms following the balanced calendar, and all of the other classrooms at Maplewood following the traditional school calendar.

With a smaller number of students enrolled in year round, classrooms are currently multi-age with kindergarteners and first graders in Candace Thiel’s classroom and second and third graders in Susan Brown’s classroom.

The Maplewood program calls for a rotation of approximately 45 days of school starting in September, followed by approximately 15 school days off. There are also 21 weekdays off after the fourth quarter in August 2020.

By shortening the breaks between sessions, students should retain skills and information better and less time is spent on review helping to prevent what teachers refer to as the “summer slide.”

“With that big break kids might read but they’re not doing math everyday and when they come back they’ve lost a lot. Staff and students all work so hard and by the spring the kids know what they’re doing and we’ve got them right where we want them,” Olbert said. “Then when we come back right after that big break every year it takes a month or two just to get back to where we were. With year round, we just keep the ball rolling and that’s the main goal.”

In addition, during the 15-day break, there will be five consecutive days of intersession opportunities for academic support and enrichment. A student would not need to wait until Camp Sparta summer school to receive the immediate interventions or extensions needed.

Students in Susan Brown’s second/third grade classroom said they enjoy being in school during the summer when it’s quiet and of course they say they like getting the playground to themselves.

One student said it is a more laid back atmosphere in the summer while another said she liked being home alone with her younger sibling during the school year while her older siblings, who are enrolled in the traditional school calendar, were at school.

“I like that just when we’re getting kind of tired of school we get a break and then when we come back we’re excited to come back,” Brown said. “We get the same breaks as the rest of the building too.

“With a balanced calendar, we can be responsive to students’ needs in a more timely manner,” Olbert said. “With a balanced 45-15 calendar, students do not have to go to school any more days than they would with a traditional calendar.”

Both traditional and balanced school calendars each have 176 days of school. Students will have the same amount of days off they just receive four breaks throughout the year rather than one long summer break.

Students also follow the same curriculum and are provided with the same educational programs as kids enrolled in the traditional school calendar.

“We understand a balanced calendar may not be an option for families for a number of reasons, however, it may be a great option for some families,” Olbert said, adding the year round program at Maplewood is another voluntary option for families, and not a district-wide initiative.

“The traditional school calendar is difficult to change because it’s always been in place, and so many people view it as the way to educate students based on their own experiences,” he added. “A type of balanced calendar - referred to as a 45-15 calendar - has been shown to improve student achievement, especially for children with at-risk factors, which impact their learning.”

Enrollment applications are now being accepted. According to Olbert, preliminary numbers show that 51 students plan to enroll in the year round calendar for the 2019-20 school year as compared to 21 the first year and 31 this school year.

For more information families can contact Olbert by email at polbert@spartan.org or by phone at (608) 366-3467.

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