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OKC School Year Already Going Strong

Filed by Michael Cross in Education, Feature, Local News, News.
August 9, 2012
 

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Oklahoma City schools students are already in their first full week of classes under a new calendar which calls for shorter summer breaks, but longer time off in fall, winter and spring.

This is the second year for the continuous learning calendar which is also called year-round school to be used district-wide.

“Kids in 6th to 8th grade make their way into the Rogers Middle School cafeteria to get their backpacks checked as they begin their first day of classes. With continuous education it’s actually earlier than most other schools in the state of Oklahoma, but most parents say they’re pretty happy with it.”

“With them getting the education that they’re getting earlier, it keeps them out of trouble for me.”

That’s working mom Sandi Miller who has two daughters in Oklahoma City schools.

“We used to live in California and the schools that they went to there was a year round school and so I’m used to the shorter summer, granted the longer winter the longer spring break, but you know I’m fine with that.”

In a trade off for having the summer break from June 1st to July 31st, Oklahoma City schools opted for having two-week breaks in spring and fall and three weeks for winter.

Rebecca Harrington of Midwest City doesn’t like the new schedule.

“They substituted like two weeks of intersession for six weeks of summer school and that’s just not enough because when they come back they have to get re used to it. It just seems like they’re off forever.”

But, it’s not like the kids do nothing during the longer fall, winter and spring breaks.

Seventh grade language arts teacher Henrietta Thompson isn’t letting them off that easy.

“What I have done is we create skills that they need and I send them home some reinforcement of what is already being taught in the class.”

For the most part, the time off throughout the year is designed for remediation and catching up many of the students who have fallen behind.

District Deputy Superintendent Sandra Park says students from the youngest to those about to graduate get help throughout the year rather than waiting till summer school.

“If we have high school students that haven’t passed their four out of seven end of instruction we do a kind of boot camp for them to get them ready for that test so that they can take their test the next go around and have some extra time on task for that.”

This also allows teachers a chance to get some professional development and catch up on back work.

One of the complaints about continuous learning was getting the kids in classes while the summer days are still hot.

Park says there is a slight trade off in extra cooling bills in the summer, but lower heating bills with the three week winter break.

But, between academic gains and air conditioning costs she says “If we could provide more for our students more timely, than that far outweighed any financial burden that we would face through switching the calendar.”

Back at Rogers Middle School, the Principal Michael Adams is helping get the students settled in.

The institution has more than 400 kids and more than 90% are on free or reduced lunches.

Adams says the extra remediation is imperative for these young people.

“You can be successful if you sit up there and follow what we’re trying to teach you and then apply what we’re trying to teach you both hear at school and at home and then when we have intercession, attending our intercession and learning more and becoming more successful in what they do.”

He says over the three years Rogers has been on the continuous calendar there’s been a slight improvement in test scores.

But he says it could be a while before any major improvement is seen.

For Andy Lewis who just dropped off his 7th grade son, it’s more than just good for the students; it’s good for the state.

“Out of 50 states last I checked I think we were ranked like 48th, so that’ll help out in that area. That’s the main thing with these kids is keeping them educated and also bring Oklahoma up.”

Currently six Tulsa elementary schools are on the continuous education calendar, but officials there say no other institutions are planning to go year round.

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