Olympia School District probes shifting to Balanced Calendar

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Olympia Schools District (OSD) is exploring adopting a Balanced Calendar, potentially as soon as the 2024-25 school year.

During a webinar held Tues., March 15, OSD Superintendent Patrick Murphy revealed the schools district’s research into spreading the school days throughout the year.

“Not just for the months that we're in school,” Murphy explained. “We're responsible for student learning all summer, and all during the academic year.”

Murphy clarified that a balanced calendar will not lengthen the 180 school days in a year.

“It is taking that 180-school day calendar and trying to keep the learning process more continuous. Students have periodic shorter breaks, as opposed to one really big long summer break and a couple of breaks during the rest of the school year,” said Murphy.

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

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

Helping Low-income Students

Adopting a balanced calendar also helps close the gap made by economic status, according to the presenters. Murphy reported that low-income students fall back 2.5 to three years by fifth grade, since they fall behind two to three months every summer as opposed to middle-class students who are able to 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’s schools, explained how she had a local student who would ask for the spare supplies given to them during long weekends.

“School provides them not only put extra food on the weekends of free breakfast and free lunch,” Morena related, “but also that just intellectual enrichment and emotional nourishment that teachers and their educators provide.”

Another benefit the presenters showed of a balanced calendar is that more timely assistance can be given to students having problems with their school work, using the breaks to provide extra instruction and offer a chance to catch up with their studies.

“We have an intercession period we can actually do in time, help support, maybe even some remediation to help students get back on track,” Murphy remarked.

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

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  • olyhiker

    Aberdeen tried this for a while with one grade school. The middle and high schools kept the traditional schedule. The 'vacation' breaks came at strange times. Like, what do you do with 2 weeks off school in February? I think teachers have a harder time getting in their own continued ed classes. Day care can be more difficult. Families have a harder time scheduling vacations.

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