Six Michigan schools are making the switch to a year-round “balanced” calendar.
Grants for four of the schools will be approved next week by the State Board of Education, and the two remaining schools will receive funds from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to help lower the burden of costs associated with the change.
The schools will be splitting part of a $2 million pilot program created within the new state budget in order to help schools change to this calendar system. The money will help with one-time costs such as setting up air conditioners for summer months, and other such expenses to prepare the school buildings.
Schools are required to keep the new system for at least three years. Only those schools with high percentages of students who receive free or reduced price lunches were allowed to apply.
The program is already in place in other areas of Michigan, including Holt, where the schools are entering their second year using the balanced calendar program. Horizon Elementary School has been using the system for several years. A shortened five-week summer vacation runs for the month of July, writes Brian Holt for website MLive.
While the new calendar does have a shortened summer break, children still receive the same number of days off, just in short two-week bursts dispersed throughout the year instead of one long break.
These two-week vacations can refresh children right at a point where they begin to lose focus. Others do not like the disruption. Patricia McCracken, who grew up attending a year-round school in Virginia, said “It was really hard to get involved in the work because as soon as you geared up, you had to gear back down again.”
The schedule offers problems for parents who must juggle different school calendars when one child attends a year-round school and the other does not. High schools are less likely to adopt the new schedules due to sports schedules and summer job opportunities.
Parents in the Michigan schools appear to be happy with the arrangement, which is beneficial not only academically but also financially.
“Having my first-grader start school this early in August saves hard-earned money that would have to otherwise be spent on YMCA day camps, daycare and other activities for another seven weeks until the ‘regular’ school year starts,” Elizabeth Burns said. “The bigger advantage I see is that my daughter left her kindergarten year with steam and gusto that was still there with her just a short five weeks later when she started first grade.”
A study out of Duke University even suggests children who follow a year-long schedule are at an advantage, as they are less likely to forget information lost over a longer summer vacation.