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Schools Consider Shorter Summer Breaks

How does a shorter summer vacation sound? If you’re a student probably not so good, but what if in exchange there were longer break periods built into the school year…breaks that could be used for enrichment, camps or time with your family? That alternative is being considered by some school superintendents in Vermont. They’re calling it School Calendar 2.0.

Under the new calendar, school would start around August 20th and end June 20th, making summer break about eight weeks long. But the calendar would have the 175 school days that are required by statue now.

The idea is uninterrupted learning time interspersed with one to two week breaks, called intersessions, explains Elaine Pinckney, Superintendent of the Chittenden South Supervisory Union, and co-chair of the committee working on the proposal for the Champlain Valley School Superintendents Association.

“We see those as the opportunity for interventions, but also for enrichment, camp opportunities, for working with our community partners, the YMCA, Flynn Center, Shelburne Museum, places that are already providing programming for our kids, partnering with them to provide rich opportunities for our kids during the intersessions,” Pinckney said.

Pinckney said money is already spent on interventions for kids through summer school and after-school programs, and the principals think they can figure it in a way to make the change without increasing budgets.

Instead of doing all of the work with students in the summer, some of that work would be done in the intersession. Students who aren’t meeting standards would come back for half days in the first intersession. Summer school will probably still be around, but Pinckney says the intersession and the summer school would be a mix of interventions and other opportunities for kids, so not just the struggling students would be at the schools during those intersessions. And she says the current summer vacation schedule doesn’t work academically for most students.

“There are a lot of students who struggle, there is what we call regression. So they leave school in June, come back in September and for all kids they’re not coming back and knowing exactly what they knew. But for our kids who are struggling and do not have the opportunities that our middle class kids have, wonderful camp activities or travel with their families, they come back in September and they are further and further behind their peers every year,” Pinckney said.

Many of the details are being worked out. The proposal is under consideration in Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle counties.

Right now the superintendents are meeting with teachers to hear about their concerns. Soon they’ll be hearing from parents and community partners to get their opinions.

If the proposal is approved next February, it would go into effect in the 2014-2015 school year.

Melody is the Contributing Editor for But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids and the co-author of two But Why books with Jane Lindholm.
A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
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