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Two Kansas City Metro Schools Moving To Year-Round Calendar

Sam Zeff

Most educators believe that American students aren’t in school enough.

Ask teachers what would improve academics and most would say more time with their kids — and there’s plenty of research to back that up.

Starting in June students in two metro elementary schools will be seeing their teachers a whole lot more and summer a whole lot less.

Winnwood and Crestview elementary schools in the North Kansas City School District will be adding 31 days to their academic calendars. They are the first two schools in Missouri to, essentially, go year-round. 

"So it’s not a summer school program, per se. It is our normal curriculum, our normal school day, Monday through Friday," says Winnwood Elementary principal Leah Copeland

Most students have what teachers call a summer slide which is why the first couple of weeks of a new year is a review what kids learned but forgot during the break.

At Winnwood and Crestview the summer slide is even a bigger problem.

Both schools have around 80 percent of students on free and reduced lunch and they do a little bit worse in reading and math than the rest of the district. Exactly why the district picked this pair of schools.

So, Copeland says, it’s not about adding subjects but making sure what they learn sticks.

"We’re going to ensure that the things they’re expected to master in second grade, we actually have time for them to master," she says.

Educators say it’s time for parents to look at summer in a whole new way.

"To say the summer is radically different and to not acknowledge school itself is radically different now, I mean, is a little bit off," says Crestview parent Elizabeth Benson whose daughter Juniper will be in second grade when the new calendar kicks in come June.

But she’s not without a little trepidation.

"I mean, you know, everybody’s a little nervous cause we don’t know what it’s going to look like. If there’s going to be burn out. But from what I’ve experienced in the school already they do amazing things with these kids. To have her in their care for 31 more days is a bit of a no brainer with me."

This move to year-round school in North Kansas City was a long time coming.

The district first started talking about extending the school year two years ago.

At first, says Assistant Superintendent for Administration Dr. Dan Clemens, district officials talked about simply spreading out the current 177 days across the whole year.

"But when we started doing our research, it was was clear a balanced calendar doesn’t really help kids achieve at higher rates," he says.

So, Clemens says, the district started talking to everybody; parents, teachers, lunch workers, bus drivers, anyone whose lives would change by adding a month to school.

The district also had to take into account that parents, no matter how much they liked additional days, would still enjoy taking a vacation.

So North Kansas City built in breaks at the end of the regular calendar, around July 4 and in August before the regular calendar kicks in.

Teachers and parents were also given a chance to transfer but Winnwood principal Leah Copeland says, few did.

"For me, knowing that people had a choice and still chose modified calendar says, definitely, that our families and staff sees it as a need for our children."

So the new summer north of the river looks pretty good as Winnwood and Crestview gear up for year round school. About 800 students will get extra class time and it will all be paid for by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, just like it was a traditional summer school

But, Assistant Superintendent Dan Clemens says, they want to make sure.

"We want to study this to make sure what we’re promising our community will happen," he says.

Clemens says the North Kansas City District is committed to two things: A five year test run before this gets rolled up to more schools and, since this is the first of its kind in Missouri, openess to changing what’s not working.

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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