(SALEM) - Students at Salem Community Schools and East Washington School Corporation will be looking at a slightly different calendar for the next school year, in preparation for moving to a balanced calendar in the future.
Kate Wehlann, of the LEader-Democrate reports the calendar for Salem's upcoming school year is very close to the traditional one the district has used in the past, but the slight differences are preparing the students and their families for the possibility of a balanced calendar for the 2013-2014 school year.
Salem Superintendent Lynn Reed wants to reassure parents that a balanced calendar is not the same as a year-round calendar. "When most people hear 'balanced calendar,' they think 'Oh, year-round school and I'm going to lose my summer,'" said Reed. "Actually, you're going to lose about two weeks of the summer and you put one week in the first semester and one week in the sec- ond so that you either have the intercession where we can help kids get some remediation or they have a longer vacation."
The balanced calendar would give students a week-long fall break and a two-week spring break, with a possible voluntary remediation period right before students take the ISTEP tests.
Another reason for the switch from traditional to balanced is because many other schools in the area are considering the move, or have gone to a balanced calendar already, including Prosser, where many Salem students attend advanced vocational classes.
"The thing, I think, that started it for us was probably Prosser's setting their calendar as a partial balanced and then a full-blown balanced the next year," said Reed. "That will really impact our Prosser students. I know that the state has pushed for more college and career readiness and I think we're really hitting the col- lege hard and I think that there are students who are looking at
Prosser . . . I don't want one more barrier to be in their way with the schedule."
Another concern would be athletics, but Reed said, while scheduling sporting events may not be perfect, the school will work it out.
"Itmaynotbeasitwasandit may not be perfect, but you have to look at what's the best thing academically for the kids," said Reed. "With all these other schools moving in this direction, I guarantee you, it will work out. It's just a matter of getting it together and getting it done."
Reed said another benefit of a balanced schedule is the allowance for families to spend time together or take vacations during the off season when rates are cheaper. Also, larger field trips, such as a French club trip to France, could be taken during these extra weeks as opposed to taking days out of the school year.
East Washington School Corporation is moving to a modified traditional calendar for next year, meaning, like the 2012-2013 Salem calendar, there are a few tweaks to the traditional calendar, but the changes are only slight in prepa- ration for a bigger switch for the 2013-2014 school year. School will begin on Aug. 7 and end on May 23, assuming there are as many or fewer snow days than the calendar has scheduled. Fall break is one week long, as is spring break.
"It's probably just about a week's difference between the very traditional calendar that we have now to the one we're implementing," said Superintendent Cathy Egolf.
Egolf said a driving reason behind East Washington's switch was Prosser as well, along with the remediation offered by the more balanced calendar the school plans to move toward after next year.
"In a balanced calendar, you go to school for nine weeks then you take a week of an intercession for kids that are struggling, whether it is in reading or whether it is in algebra or science, it gives them much more of a one-to-one [learn- ing opportunity], gives them a real intervention possibility to catch up every nine weeks so that they pass a semester with greater depth and greater understanding than they would have," said Egolf. "It also lends itself so that those kids who are needing even greater knowl-
edge, you can do programs that would allow kids to expand and study further. I know of a school that, in the intercession, took kids who met their requirements for an advanced biology class to Costa Rica for a week to study plant life. What an opportunity to go deeper and understand greater."
Egolf said the balanced calendar would look like four nine-week sessions with three two-week breaks for fall, winter and spring breaks and a longer, seven- or eight-week break for summer.
What the district will do, exactly, Egolf said, would depend on other surrounding school districts.
"It depends on the other schools in Washington County and it varies with where Prosser goes on their calendar," she said. "We really want to work with the surrounding school districts. We have special ed kids we share. We have vocational kids we share. We really want to meet as many kids' needs as possible."
The West Washington Schools 2012-2013 calendar will remain the same, but they are considering moving to a balanced calendar for the 2013-2014 school year.
"I think it's the way to go," said West Washington Superintendent Gerald Jackson. "They tell me one of the main reasons is that it will help our test scores because the lapse time in the summer is a good deal less. You use one of those two weeks on break for remediation. The downfall for that is there are no funds for the remediation at this point."
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