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Riverton schools to explore all-year school calendar

Feb 13, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Riverton school officials will begin studying the possibility of a year-long learning schedule after the Fremont County School District 25 Board of Trustees on Tuesday endorsed exploration of the idea.

FCSD25 Superintendent Terry Snyder said the conversation about a "continuous learning calendar" arose this month when administrators discussed House Bill 255, a year-round school calendar incentive which failed to pass through the Wyoming Senate during this Legislative session.

Snyder said he didn't approve of the details of the legislation, but he said the concept is worth an in-depth look locally.

"I think this bill (was) intended for student achievement impact, but I don't think it goes far enough in its planning," Snyder said. "Would you be willing to allow us, as a district, to explore the possibility of a changed calendar in future years?"

He said the process would take time and require input from district staff, then parents, students and other local residents.

"We would have an initial discussion with staff, and if we identify an interest in researching it we'd broaden it out," Snyder said, acknowledging that such a change would have wide impacts on the community.

"We'd have to get a lot of input from parents, kids, how it would affect athletics, work, hunting seasons, whatever else might be affected. But we think it'd be worth our consideration."

He already has worked in a district that implemented a year-round schedule. Snyder said that calendar was designed with 45 days of regular classes followed by 10-day breaks, or intercessions, during which student remediation and enrichment could take place. In the summer, students were given six weeks off of school so teachers could focus on professional advancement.

HB255 would have asked districts to test the year-long schedule at one or two schools, and it required that breaks from student-teacher instruction don't last longer than three weeks. Snyder said he would rather look into the option independently so local officials have more flexibility to do what's right for Riverton students.

"To adjust our plan to get a few dollars from the state might compromise the plan we need to put together," Snyder said. "We'd be looking to create a design of our own ... that meets the needs of our kids."

He has spoken to local administrators who expressed interest in talking about an extended calendar. Snyder said the shorter breaks cut down on review time at the beginning of the year, providing more time to learn additional concepts and lessons.

"I think it's worth exploring," Snyder said. "We know our traditional calendar has some significant pitfalls for student learning in it."

Board member Larry Christensen agreed, pointing out that students who spend more time in school tend to learn more and test better.

"The longer you go (on break) the more you inhibit the learning process," Christensen said.

Board member Dean Peranteaux pointed out that the frequent, though shorter, breaks might be fun for the students.

"It does keep (them) from getting burned out," he said, adding, "It's been tested and proven that continuous education does improve test scores. ... I think it's definitely worth pursuing."

Other board members including Greg Ashdown, Lynette Jeffres, Glenn Ogg and Carl Manning also voiced their approval of an exploratory study.

"(We want) adults that come into the workplace ready to work and have a sense of time and all the soft skills we can give to them," Manning said. "A three-month layoff is not productive, in my view. It's not a productive way to present education."

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