Year-round school may benefit students

  • Article by: EMILY JOHNS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 11, 2007 - 9:31 PM

Teachers and parents report improvements in behavior and academics as the number of year-round schools increases.

When Sam Larson's friends are at school and he's on winter break, he hides behind a snowbank and waits for them to come home.

The seventh-grader waits for the school bus to stop in his Lakeville neighborhood, then ... Bam!

He pelts them with snowballs.

"I like having a different [school] schedule," Larson said. "I like to skateboard and snowboard, so in the winter, I can go play in the snow.'

Larson attends Apple Valley's Paideia Academy charter school, a school where students have classes year-round but have several weeks of break between each quarter.

Public school teachers in districts with traditional summers-off schedules say October is when they can finally start teaching students new material, after having spent the first few weeks reviewing academic subjects and behavior expectations.

At Paideia (pronounced Pi-DAY-ah), teachers and students say the year-round schedule keeps students from forgetting too much over the summer, from academic subjects such as math to how to raise your hand and ask to go to the bathroom.

"There is a lot less regression at the end of the summer," said Chris Pellant, the school's principal. "And they get a little break after every quarter, so they get rejuvenated and they're ready to come back and work hard."

Increasing numbers

Minnesota has at least 26 year-round schools, according to the National Association for Year-Round Education. Although most of those are not charter schools, the number of year-round schools in the state is rising because of the growth of charter schools.

Recently, the Department of Education approved two year-round charter schools that can open as soon as next fall in Minneapolis. The schools will be the first two in the state providing the Knowledge is Power Program, a nationwide program that has been recognized for improving performance among at-risk students and helping them get into college.

Paideia Academy is a K-7 charter school that opened in 2005 and serves about 330 students. The school operates on a "core knowledge" curriculum, which focuses on giving students a good understanding of many different subjects.

The school year is on the quarter system, with a six-week break in the summer and two to four weeks between the other quarters.

Fourth-grader Peter Flynn of Eagan admits there is a downside to the schedule. He has wanted to play in baseball and soccer leagues but can't. And he sometimes gets bored when he is on vacation and neighbor kids aren't.

In August, going to school after playing until sundown the night before is also hard. He sleeps with a tomato stake in his bed so he can turn down the volume on his radio alarm clock, which his mom has strategically placed out of reach of his bed.

But overall, he likes it.

"Some of my friends' moms make them do flash cards every day so they don't forget math," Peter said. "I don't have to."

Reteaching behavior

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