ALBERT LEA, MN – Districts across the nation are re-evaluating the best ways to improve education in our schools. Not only are they looking at the curriculum, they’re also considering how time in the classroom impacts learning.
That’s why the Albert Lea school district is debating a big change to its calendar. The school board is looking at starting the school year in August.
Instead of a long summer, students will have two or three week breaks between each of the quarters.
“It will affect us at all levels as our kids get older,” says one parent in the Albert Lea school district.
And she isn’t the only one on the fence about the possibility of a schedule change for her children. District officials are beginning conversations about switching to, what they call, a “balanced calendar” for the 2015- 2016 school year.
“We’re taking a look at the traditional calendar and seeing maybe if we can tweak it a bit so that we intersperse breaks throughout the school year and we reduce summer by a few weeks,” says Superintendent Mike Funk.
He says this could have a positive effect on children from low income families, who make up a large portion of the student population.
“About 50% of our students have free or reduced lunch and studies have shown that if there’s a three month, three month summer gap, kids with poverty have significant learning loss during the summer months,” added Funk.
These are the same kids which parents like Angela Moller believe are at risk for obesity.
“Some of these kids might be the ones on the couch for three weeks in March if we choose to do that,” says Moller.
She is also concerned about kids losing valuable working hours and pay during the month of August.
“I remember, I worked full time during the summer to earn money for college and for my future and kids need that,” she added.
But even Moller noted that there are some definite advantages to the new schedule.
“I can definitely see good points to it, I can see the benefit of getting kids done with their exams before Christmas.”
Another concern of parents would be the cost of finding day care for their kids over these two week long breaks.
With a new school schedule comes all new challenges but also the possibility for growth.
The superintendent says community discussions will continue, as they decide if this is the right fit for the Albert Lea school district.
“It’ll affect everyone in different ways and hopefully the district will do it’s best to find something that benefits everyone,” says Moller.
Here’s one more advantage, over the extended breaks, students who are struggling would be able to come in and get the one-on-one help they need from teachers.
Also, because the school year would be starting before Labor Day, the district would need the approval of the Minnesota Commissioner of Education before the calendar could go in effect.