Olympia School District probes shift to balanced calendar

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By Edwin Oscar Gutierrez, Jr.

Olympia Schools District (OSD) plans to adopt a balanced calendar, potentially as early as the 2024-25 school year.

In a webinar on Tuesday, March 15, OSD Superintendent Patrick Murphy revealed the school district’s research into the distribution of school days throughout the year.

“Not just for the months we’re in school,” Murphy explained. “We are responsible for student learning all summer and throughout the school year. »

Murphy clarified that a balanced schedule will not lengthen the 180 school days per year.

“He takes that 180 school day schedule and tries to keep the learning process more continuous. Students have shorter periodic breaks, as opposed to a very long summer break and a few breaks throughout the rest of the school year,” Murphy said.

In the proposed schedule, school days will be divided into groups of 45 teaching days followed by short breaks: 15 days in the fall, three days for Thanksgiving, 15 days for winter break, 15 days for spring break and 30 days off during the summer.

In his presentation, Murphy cited studies that showed how students forget some of what they learn during summer vacation, with an average of 2.6 months of lost math skills, which teachers will need to brush up on. instead of moving on to new lessons. He added that this effect becomes more pronounced as children get older.

Help low-income students

Adopting a balanced calendar also helps bridge the gap created by the economic situation, according to the presenters. Murphy reported that low-income students set back 2.5 to three years in fifth grade because they fall two to three months behind every summer, unlike middle-class students who can continue their learning during breaks.

Megan Moreno, one of the meeting’s speakers and an Olympia substitute teacher who grew up with the balanced calendar system in San Francisco Bay Area schools, explained that she had a local student who asked for spare supplies given to him on long weekends.

“The school not only provides them with extra food on the weekends with free breakfast and lunch,” Morena recounted, “but also that intellectual enrichment and emotional nourishment that teachers and their educators provide.”

Another benefit presenters have shown of a balanced schedule is that faster help can be given to students having trouble with their schoolwork, using the breaks to provide extra instruction and a chance to catch up on their studies. .

“We have a period of intercession that we can actually do in time, help support, maybe even corrective action to help students get back on track,” Murphy remarked.

Murphy explained that the balanced schedule is still under study and receiving public feedback, and that the district will still follow the status quo next school year while exploring the concept.

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