Assignment: Education – Could year-round school expand?

The La Crosse School District discusses the possibility of expanding the year-round calendar into middle school

Lincoln, SOTA II and Coulee Montessori Middle Schools are the focus of a new conversation.

“We’re talking about a year-round calendar,” said Randy Nelson, La Crosse School District superintendent.

The district introduced the calendar to the community at Hamilton Elementary in 2013 as an option for families. The goal was to reduce summer slide and improve academic success.

“Our data is suggesting after three years, that it certainly has done that,” said Nelson.

As those elementary students prepare to enter middle school next year, the district wants to know if the community would like to see this calendar expand into the Lincoln Middle School building in hopes of maintaining those same benefits.

“When they look at the students who they are supporting in their building, that very much the same thing could, perhaps, happen to provide more of a year round system of supports instead of just those nine months of a traditional calendar,” said Nelson.

The district had its first conversation with staff in the Lincoln Middle School building in October.

“What I did was reached out to staff in a very informal survey, and asked them what they thought. What they knew about year-round school. What they thought about it professionally. What they thought about it personally. What they had questions about,” said Melissa Murray, Lincoln/SOTA II/Coulee Montessori principal. “And things they wanted to be sure of, if it was something that we explored, that we made sure that we answered for them, and that we answered for parents.”

Through that survey, about six of the 50 staff members at Lincoln Middle said they had no interest in the calendar, and 15 needed more information before they could make a decision about whether to support an expansion.

“I was appreciative of them being real honest to just say, ‘I can’t tell you what I think, because I don’t know what I think,'” said Murray.

The survey also revealed there were three big topics the teaching staff wants to explore. Those include: What will happen with summer school if school starts in the middle of July? Another concern has to do with schedules for shared staff; those teachers that teach in more than one building. And the third big question is how many families want a year-round middle school?

“The family piece is really important,” said Murray. “We really want to be responsive to what our families want and need.”

Murray presented the possibility of a year-round calendar to the Lincoln Parent, Teacher Organization in September and October, and hopes to hear parent feedback this month. However, by February, families throughout the district will be able to weigh in on the conversation through a district-wide survey.

“There could be parents that want their children from other schools to be involved in a year round middle school calendar, but there could also be parents inside, who would be part of that Lincoln Middle School boundary already, who would say, ‘I don’t want any part of this,’ said Nelson. ‘This is not going to work well for me.’ So, we’re going to want to take a look at what options do we have for those parents as well.”

As the conversation continues, the district looks forward to discussing the possibilities an expanded year-round calendar could provide some of their students and families.

“The things that are exciting to me about the possibility of year-round school here, is to see what kind of educational impact that sort of change makes,” said Murray.

The superintendent said the year-round calendar will not begin next fall.

If the district moves forward with the plan, the soonest it will start is the fall of 2017.