With school getting out for the summer, it’s an appropriate time to break from my usual topics of sports, media and technology to share my alternative school calendar. Amongst other things, it does away with the typical summer break for those who choose that option. It also slightly changes the usual beginning and end of school year while still allowing for the 180 mandated school days as determined by the state. The keys to this proposal are to allow students to improve on certain subjects during the summer, learn new subjects that might not be available during the regular school year and use some of the school buildings that would otherwise sit idle during the summer. For this example, I’m using the 2012-13 calendar.
School would start the day after Labor Day, 9/4. Holidays for the rest of the year include Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving (2 days). School would go through Friday, 12/21 and return from Christmas/Winter Break on Wednesday, 1/2. The next break would be Spring Break, the week of March 25th, with classes resuming on Monday, 4/1. The last holiday would be Memorial Day on Monday, 5/27. The last day of school would be Friday, 6/7. That’s 180 school days, and leaves some room the following week for makeup days if necessary. But the real reason for the adapted schedule is to make room for a volunteer summer term.
Following a two week break after the conclusion of the regular school year, an optional summer term would begin Monday, 6/24. This summer term would conclude on Friday, 8/16, for a total of 8 weeks of instruction. There would be no school on Independence Day. But the summer term would also be broken up into two separate 4 week terms, with students having the option of attending either or both. This is meant to give families flexibility so that other summer vacation time is available other than the two weeks immediately after the recently completed school year and the two weeks immediately before the next school year.
The summer term would be designed to differentiate itself from the regular school year for the students. It would be for half a day, say from 9am-noon. Classes offered would not only be math, science and reading, but useful subjects in which there might not be time to teach during a regular school year, such as foreign languages and basic economics and accounting. The summer term could be used for students to catch up if they finished the regular year behind. Conversely, it could give other students the opportunity to jump ahead. Students would be classified by their learning level rather than by grade, as classes would be taught by subject (like middle or high school). Schools used would be by regular bus lines so school buses would not be needed. Though classified by learning level, this would only pertain amongst students within a grade school, middle school or high school. Teachers would get the first opportunity to teach at summer school, for corresponding extra pay. Like students, they could select the full term or either half. Other instructors would be graduate students with a particular expertise in a subject, say math or a foreign language, who have a potential interest in teaching. By including these graduate students in the summer term, we might be creating future teachers if these students enjoy the experience.
Obviously, these ideas are all flexible. The main idea is to provide students the option for additional learning over the summer and adjusting the regular school calendar to accommodate it. It certainly breaks from the norm, at least as I understand it. But that may be what’s needed today to keep our young students competitive in a global marketplace.