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Editorial: Balanced school calendar plan ready for public input

Dec. 22, 2012 @ 11:41 PM

The school calendar shapes the year for children, teens, parents, teachers and many others in the community as well.

So making a significant change should not be taken lightly, and in Cabell County, it has not been.

The school board and administration have used an inclusive and methodical approach to exploring a possible move to the "year-round" or "balanced" calendar, and soon they will be asking the community for more input on the idea.

The board first began discussions about the schedule change in March, but this week the school was presented with a draft calendar for the 2014-15 school year that provides more detail about how it could work.

The balanced calendar would break the school year into four 45-day quarters, each separated by breaks. The summer break of five weeks would be the longest. The total number of school days would remain the same at 180 days with 200-day teacher contracts.

The advantage, research shows, is improved achievement for students. A lot of knowledge is lost each year during the traditional June to August break, and some of the instruction time each fall is devoted to catching up and reviewing what classes covered the previous year.

The balanced calendar would minimize that learning loss. Plus, the breaks between the quarters will include time for optional enrichment programs and remedial instructions. For lower-income students that could also mean access to nutritious meals and physical activity that they do not always have now.

Here's how the draft calendar would break down:

School would start on July 23, 2014, with an intersession during the last week of September/first week of October and then a week off.

Second quarter would begin Oct. 14, with Thanksgiving week off, then return to finish the quarter prior to Christmas break. An intersession would be held the first full week in January.

Third quarter would start Jan. 13 and conclude March 18. An intersession would be held the last full week of March, followed by a week off.

Fourth quarter would start April 13. A final intersession would be held in late June before the five-week summer break would start.

That's a big change, and there would be many details to work out and costs to analyze for the school system. For example, those summer days would mean more air conditioning for the schools and a big adjustment for day care centers and other summer youth programs.

Now is the time for all interested parties to get their thoughts together, make comments and ask questions. The school system is planning meetings with parents, day-care providers, Marshall University leaders and others during the first months of the new year.

We hope residents will become engaged in that discussion and let school officials know if this change has the support of the community.

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