A new way to look at the school calendar

By Rachel Dunphy

Since early April the Champlain Valley Superintendent’s Association (CVSA) has been crafting a proposal for Calendar 2.0, a new model of school calendar the group hopes to implement across the region beginning in the 2014-15 school year.

The suggested calendar features relatively minor changes to the current model in the Chittenden South Supervisory Union (CSSU) school district. While the full school year would remain the state-mandated 175 days, the summer break would be shortened by about three weeks, and several shorter school breaks throughout the year would be extended to one or two full weeks.

These longer breaks or “intersessions” as the CVSA has dubbed them, are in large part the purpose of the change, and the group hopes they can be used to aid learning in a variety of ways for the entire school community. Intersessions could potentially be opportunities for personalized student learning – hands-on experience with professionals, supplemental or remedial classes, reflecting, and planning – while also providing teachers with a chance to analyze their tactics, create personalized education plans, and collaborate with colleagues to create new and diverse learning experiences.

Calendar 2.0 comes following a wave of school transformations in the area, like the 2015 transformation at Champlain Valley Union (CVU) High School. CVU has been changing grading standards, adding more qualitative evaluation, working to individualize teaching, and providing more hands on learning experiences since 2011. Because many of the changes began with the Class of 2015, it is referred to as 2015 transformation.

Most of these changes come from a country-wide need to teach more students at a higher standard than ever before, as well as a desire to specialize and individualize teaching for those students who wouldn’t succeed in a traditional classroom setting.

If the proposed changes – which will not be finalized until April 2014 – are approved, the group promises the change will be cost-neutral for taxpayers, as the adjusted school year will still come to the current 175 student days and five teacher days. That statement is somewhat incompatible with the notion of intercession programming for students and planning periods for teachers, both of which would require additional hours of work from the majority of the faculty. The change also presents other economic challenges to the community. Local camps, for instance, might be forced to shorten their seasons.

The CVSA certainly sees promise in Calendar 2.0, but few specifics about the calendar (besides the dates themselves) have been made available to the public, and it is still unclear exactly how the changes will benefit students. There are also factions in the community who have come out against the proposal, specifically the Save Our Summers (SOS) Coalition Committee which created a list (published in the Shelburne News in June) of the problems they see in the proposal. These problems ranged from the summer opportunities kids might miss to troubles of finding childcare during additional school breaks, and the lack of evidence in favor of the change

The CVSA’s official decision on the change will not be made until early spring, so there is still much time for community input as well as more concrete explanations from the superintendents. For those who want to learn more about the proposed changes or opportunities to provide input, information is available at schoolcalendar2.blogspot.com.

 

The CVSA will also hold public forums on Calendar 2.0 on these dates and locations.

Wednesday, Oct. 2, 6:30 pm, Essex High School

Thursday, Oct. 3, 6:30 pm, BFA St. Albans

Wednesday, Oct. 9, 6:30 pm, Burlington High School

Thursday, Oct. 10, 6:30 pm, Champlain Valley Union High School

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