The Wake County school system may want to avoid using the term year-round calendar to refer to the new proposed “continuous learning calendar,” but that’s what it is under the state’s school calendar law.
North Carolina’s school calendar law requires traditional-calendar schools to open no earlier than the Monday closest to Aug. 26 and end by the Friday closest to June 11. But under Wake’s continuous learning calendar, school could run from July 27 to June 14 in the 2016-17 school year for 12 high-needs elementary schools.
The reason Wake can consider the continuous learning calendar is that the state’s calendar law exempts charter schools, year-rounds and cooperative innovation high schools such as the early colleges. The law also exempts modified year-round calendar schools that were in operation or planned in the 2003-04 school year.
So under the year-round exemption, Wake can potentially offer the new calendar for the schools in the Elementary Support Model program.
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But in the presentation to parents at the 12 ESM schools, the continuous learning calendar has been pitched as a “hybrid” of the traditional and year-round calendars. Considering how unpopular the year-round calendar is in some quarters, that kind of marketing strategy could make sense.
Wake says the dates in the continuous learning calendar are similar to the traditional calendar while offering the benefits of the year-round calendar. Those benefits are supposed to include:
▪ Winter and spring breaks that align with traditional-calendar schools for families who have older siblings;
▪ A six-week summer break instead of an 11-week break that reduces summer learning loss;
▪ The ability to use the trackout times for remediation and/or enrichment activities for students.
What Wake did to create the new calendar was adapt the single-track year-round calendar, which follows track 4 on tne multi-track calendar. Wake shrunk the five-week winter break on track 4 into a three-week break in order to end the school year for the continuous learning calendar in mid-June.
School administrators will make a recommendation to the school board on potential calendar changes at the 12 schools in August or September – instead of this month as originally planned. The extra time will allow staff to continue surveying parents at the 12 schools and to meet with groups such as the Boys & Girls Club and the YMCA about offering trackout options.
Childcare costs are particularly an issue in this case because of the poverty levels at the 12 schools. Nine schools have more than 70 percent of students receiving subsidized lunches. Two schools are between 60 and 70 percent and the lowest school is at 54 percent.