District 25 eyes plan for extended school year; would trim summer break

Aug 24, 2017 By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer

Fremont County School District 25 in Riverton is developing a plan for an extended school year that would shorten the summer break while adding more time off in the academic schedule.

On Tuesday, the school board members asked superintendent Terry Snyder to make the plan one of his annual priorities.

Snyder said he will use academic research to develop the schedule before bringing it to the community for feedback. He anticipates meeting with parents and other stakeholders before making a final decision about implementation.

"We probably wouldn't implement this next year, but it could be two or three years from now," he said.

Summer learning loss

Snyder said an extended school year "would reduce summer learning loss," which is a particular problem for "a lot of low socioeconomic kids."

In Snyder's current notion of the plan, summer break would be reduced to "six to seven weeks," while the school year would be broken up into four 45-day chunks of regular instruction.

In between each instructional section students would have 10-15 days off, including a week of remediation for students who are behind, or extra enrichment for students who are already advanced in their studies.

Snyder said research indicates districts "get the biggest return" when they do interventions during the school year.

Support growing

The extended school year concept was one Snyder first proposed when he interviewed to become Riverton's superintendent in 2011.

Since then, support for the calendar change had grown among faculty: Snyder said a survey of teachers showed an extended school year is their second scheduling choice - after maintaining the status quo.

"You plant a seed and let it grow a little," he said.

Snyder said that when he worked in Nebraska, his district at the time took the extended calendar concept to high-poverty, low-performance schools. Within a few years of the scheduling change, he said, they became the top performing schools in the district.

Extended school years were one of the key recommendations -- and one of the least-implemented recommendations -- of "A Nation At Risk," a 1983 report, commissioned by President Ronald Reagan's administration, that led to nationwide school reforms.