BCS submitting grant application for year-round schooling

Parents invited to year-round schooling presentation, survey Monday

  BALDWIN — With the completion of its staff survey and upcoming parent survey, Baldwin Community Schools’ superintendent hopes to have everyone’s input as the district continues to move toward implementing a year-round school calendar. On April 10, BCS held its final voluntary staff meeting to talk about the idea of the district switching to a year-round school calendar, also called a balanced calendar. Of the district’s 69 employees, 50 participated in the survey. Overall, the survey shows that those who participated overwhelmingly understand a balanced-calendar model and what factors it aims to improve. “The percentages, in terms of how people answered the questions, the responses are very favorable (to the idea of a balanced calendar),” said BCS Superintendent Stiles Simmons. The survey questions and the percentage that answered yes are as follows:
  • Are you aware of the summer learning loss that occurs in reading and math? - 97 percent
  • Do you think this summer learning loss is an impacting factor in the academic achievement of our students? - 89 percent
  • Do you think a balanced calendar is a means to improve the academic achievement of our students and close the achievement gap? - 70.5 percent
  • Do you think more flexible time structures are needed to meet all that is required of educators today? - 82.7 percent
  • Do you think a balanced calendar is a means to reduce student discipline incidents? - 54 percent
“(The survey) tells me that they are in support of the balanced-calendar model; although, obviously they have lots of questions,” Simmons said. “The questions are largely logistical in nature, which makes sense.” Some of the staff’s questions included how the balanced calendar works, what the timeline is for its implementation and what happens if the timeline isn’t met and general questions about intersession periods which are a part of the balanced calendar. A calendar committee has been formed to flush out the details of what the district’s balanced calendar would look like, and a planning committee is forming to answer some of the logistical questions, Simmons said. The main reason BCS would choose to switch to a balanced calendar is to improve student achievement and close achievement gaps. A balanced calendar takes the same number of days in a school year, 175, and distributes them evenly across a 12-month calendar. The reworked model allows for shorter, more frequent breaks and more continuous learning which would cut down on summer learning loss — what students forget during the summer. Some research also suggests it reduces student disciplinary issues because teachers and students aren’t cooped up. The reason BCS is contemplating the move to a balanced calendar now is because of legislation Gov. Rick Snyder signed on April 7. Under Public Act 116, $2 million in grant funding will be appropriated this year for schools to implement a balanced calendar for the 2014-15 school year. To qualify for the funding — up to $750,000 for a single district — a district must offer free and reduced priced lunch and have the school board adopt a resolution to implement a balanced calendar for at least one building in the district for three years. The grant funds could be used for “building modifications, personnel contract modifications, or other nonrecurring costs associated with implementing a year-round instructional program,” according to a summary by the House Fiscal Agency. “We know that a solid public school education is an essential part of Michigan’s continuing comeback,” Snyder said in a release. “Studies show low-income students may lose as much as three grades of reading comprehension due to the traditional summer break. I want to support innovative districts voluntarily looking to move to the balanced calendar to help students build a strong educational foundation for a lifetime of learning.” Snyder also visited Baldwin on Thursday and met with Simmons briefly. The two talked about the balanced calendar and Snyder reiterated his support of the idea, Simmons said. The district is currently working on the grant application to receive the state funding, which is due May 1. BCS also has issued a request for proposals to receive quotes to add 57 air conditioning units and upgrade the district’s electrical infrastructure and the external power infrastructure to support the district’s upgrades. The district also has received letters supporting a balanced calendar from elected government officials, community organizations and local businesses, Simmons said. He also anticipates more are on their way. “We have a lot of support in the community for this particular model,” he said. “It is really exciting to see people rallying around the school; although people have questions and some concerns. But, people in large part are supportive of the idea and believe that it is a good strategy to help improve student achievement and close achievement gaps.” BCS has been speaking to students about the balanced calendar model, and the final group of stakeholders it has yet to survey are parents. The district plans to survey parents at next week’s Dinner with the Superintendent event. At the event, Simmons will give his presentation on the balanced-calendar model and David Hornak, principal of Horizon Elementary School in Holt, will be the guest speaker. Horizon Elementary School has been using a balanced calendar for 20 years, Simmons said. Dinner with the Superintendent will start at 5:30 p.m. on Monday and be held inside the elementary gym, located at 525 Fourth St. in Baldwin.