Utah considers year-round school schedule

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A task force studying year-round school plans for Utah middle and high schools has given state educators three proposals to consider. The 21-member committee was asked to develop feasible plans for alternative school calendars that would improve student outcomes, better utilize buildings and raise teacher compensation without increasing costs, The Deseret News reported. State Superintendent Larry Shumway said the team’s 39-page report includes proposals for six-term, four-term and flex-trimester calendars. “Our intention was to go one step further from imagining or speculating what it might look like, to something far more concrete,” Shumway said. “I hope it will be a piece that will foster further discussion for what the future might hold.” Each proposal includes specific details about how the models work, including start and end times for the school day, period length, instruction time per day, class sizes, number of classes for teachers, administrative and building costs, and salaries. The details provided by the report, and using an actual school as a template, will help schools and districts better forecast what an alternative calendar year might look like, Shumway said. “There is no reason that some of these alternatives might provide better opportunities for students in the public schools,” he said. Currently, 44 Utah elementary schools in four districts operate alternative or year-round models. Nationwide, about 3,000 schools operate on year-round calendars, said Charles Ballinger, executive director emeritus of the National Association for Year-Round Education. The Utah task force study comes at a time when some schools are switching from the year-round model back to a traditional school calendar. The Jordan School District saved $700,000 by switching seven of its schools back this year, district spokesman Steve Dunham said. The district originally adopted a year-round model for most of its elementary schools in the 1980s so it could house more students in the same building, said Bevan Wasden, administrator of schools for the Jordan School District. But enrollment has declined in some schools in recent years, allowing for the return to a traditional calendar. Wasden said academically, the different models look about the same, although students with special needs seem to perform much better when they go to school year-round. “You see that there are some students it helps because they don’t have the long summer break, but there are some students that have a hard time with stops and starts,” Wasden said. The Salt Lake City School Board, which has four year-round schools in its district, is also considering abandoning the alternative calendar for financial reasons. District spokesman Jason Olsen said students in the year-round schools actually performed slightly worse than their counterparts in low-income, or Title I, schools. But many year-round students, parents and teachers like the model. Regen Stowell, a third-grade teacher at Jordan’s Falcon Ridge Elementary, said her students get back on track quickly after their three-week breaks. Stowell also said the breaks allow her time to evaluate her teaching methods throughout the year and make any adjustments.

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