Baldwin Schools present new calendar to the public

BALDWIN — The Baldwin Community School District is trying to educate the public about the switch to the new balanced calendar in the upcoming school year. A presentation on April 20 was hosted to further explain to parents about what this switch-over to the new calendar will mean and how it will affect their students.

The new calendar will eliminate the one long summer break used by most school districts and spread those days off through out the year. Baldwin Community Schools will be the first district in west Michigan to attempt this model.

"Tonight is a celebration of the upcoming school year and the implementation of the new calendar," said Superintendent Stiles Simmons. "We want to remind parents why this new calendar is a good idea and inform them."

Staff member Cher Robinson opened up the meeting by comparing the initiative to move to a balanced calendar with her favorite past-time: baseball.

"First base was asking for support, talking to legislators and just trying to get the ball rolling," said Robinson. "We visited other districts who had implemented a balanced calendar and formed this board to try and make it happen here. That was second base. Third base is implementing the calendar and taking the final steps to make it happen; and that includes tonight."

This was followed by information provided by several staff members included Simmons. Simmons explained the new calendar would not be a cure-all for the district's problems, but combined with other positive steps such as this year's shift to the common core curriculum, the Baldwin Promise and College Access Center and the improvement in student grades and test scores, the district was well on its way to great things.

"It's been a long road to get here," remarked Simmons. "We started this move last year. The grant fell through and we had to try again and ask Rep. Bumstead to intercede on our behalf. Now we have a few more steps to go, but it's moving forward and we're really pleased with the response from the community and the commitment from our staff."

Bumstead was present for the evening's activities.

Simmons and his fellow educators went on to explain why the balanced calendar would be a vast improvement over the old "summer break" calendar. The biggest issue is what educators call "summer learning loss," or the drop in grades and ability to learn following the two to three months off during the summer. With only a month off in the summer under the new calendar the issue would be eliminated. Simmons presented statistics both collected from the district and provided by the National Association for Year Round Education to substantiate his claims.

The new system would spread the same amount of days off more evenly throughout the 12-month calendar; with a goal of spending 45 days in session and 15 days out of session. This also would help combat learning fatigue and teacher burnout which can occur from spending months on end in classes without a significant break.

Additionally, Simmons said the system is better for low income areas as families without the ability to finance their own summer activities are at a disadvantage leaving their students without any academic growth between June and September.

"It has a positive impact on student achievement, especially those from low income areas," explained Simmons. "Students who don't have the resources to stay engaged in the summer months were at a disadvantage. A long summer break can hurt them, and this way all of our students will be able to stay active and learning throughout the year."

The new calendar is scheduled to go into effect starting Monday, Aug. 10.