Parents overwhelmingly are supporting a proposed 11-month calendar for elementary school students in the Columbus Municipal School District, said CMSD Superintendent Dr. Del Phillips.
CMSD officials this month held a series of meetings, at the CMSD”s elementary schools, to gain input from parents on a proposed calendar, which adds 18 days to elementary students” school year.
“The parent meetings have been very successful,” said Phillips. “The vast majority of parents have supported the calendar concept. Many parents in attendance have mentioned to me that they came to the meeting not fully supportive of the idea, but changed their mind once they heard the information.”
“I was against it before I came to the meeting, but now I”m up in the air,” said Jennifer Hebert, whose children — Ethan, 7, and Elijah, 6 — attend Cook Elementary Fine Arts Magnet School. “My main hesitation is I”m afraid the kids are going to get burnt out.”
“Initially, I was on the fence,” Betsy Altmyer said of the calendar, noting after she attended a meeting at Cook, she was in favor of the new calendar. “The main thing with Dr. Phillips is everything he”s done since he”s been here has been positive. (Mississippi is) No. 50 (in national education rankings). I think we need to think from a bigger picture.
“I think it”s a win-win situation,” Altmyer, whose children — Luke, 6, and Steele, 8 — attend Cook, continued of the proposed change. “The kids that need help can get it here at school and the children who are not remedial can get more creative outlets. My comment to those against it is to do your research, talk to teachers, talk to Dr. Phillips. But don”t just say you”re against it without backing it up.”
“I think it”s a good idea,” LaRhonda Walker, who attended a parent meeting at Fairview Elementary Aerospace and Science Magnet School, said of the new calendar.
Walker”s children won”t be affected by the proposed calendar, but she attended the meeting to share her experiences with other parents.
A former resident of California, Walker had two children who completed school following a year-round calendar.
“I don”t see anything wrong with extra days and adding on to the education of kids,” she said. “A lot of parents are concerned about the few months their kids are getting summer taken away. But most families aren”t on vacation the whole summer. (The proposed calendar) is pretty flexible.”
“I think it”s great,” said David Strain, whose son, Euan, 7, attends Cook. “I came from a system (in London, England) based on a similar (calendar). The enrichment program is very exciting and offers some really good opportunities. It”s time.”
Noting consistently attending school helps students better retain what they learn and enables teachers to work an extended time with smaller groups of students, Phillips, in March, proposed the new calendar for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.
Phillips proposed students attend regular classes for 181 days of the year and 18 days be designated as “Success Academy” days, when students testing at minimum or basic proficiency levels are required to attend for “small, concentrated” classes for “intense remediation.”
Students testing at proficient or advanced levels would not be required to attend school on the Success Academy days, but enrichment programs and activities, often expanding on the CMSD Magnet School themes, would be available for those who did attend.
“We want our students to have a competitive advantage,” he said of the calendar.
Following the new calendar would save parents on daycare costs, Phillips added, noting students would be off from school for six weeks — beginning in mid-June through the entire month of July — in following the new calendar.
Under the proposal, teachers working additional days would be paid by stipend.
“I think it”s a good thing,” said Emory Hutchison, whose children — Emory, 8, and Richard, 6 — attend Sale Elementary International Studies Magnet School. “It”s about time. We”re just catching up with what other countries and big cities have been doing for years. In Japan, they do seven days a week!
“Especially with the younger kids, the first five or six years they”re in school, retention (is important),” he added. “I know a lot of kids, when they get the summer off, don”t stick with what they learn and it creates a lapse in memory, if you don”t use it.”
Phillips will seek more input from teachers next week and plans to make a recommendation on the calendar to the CMSD board of trustees during its May 11 board meeting.
He noted the CMSD would “not force schools to participate” in the 11-month calendar; the calendar only will be enacted in schools with parental support.
On Thursday, he said, based on feedback received through parent/teacher conferences, surveys and meetings, the majority of parents in each school supported the new calendar.
The extended year would be funded with Title 1 and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act funds through a federal stimulus package; the CMSD would have a “three-year window to spend the funds,” Phillips said.
If approved by the CMSD board, the calendar likely would be implemented in August for grades kindergarten through four and in the following school year for grades kindergarten through five.