ROCHESTER, Minn. -- This elementary school class is structured like any other elementary school class in the Rochester School District. However, the story behind the school year is a little different.
"The traditional schools in our district start the Tuesday after Labor Day," said Longfellow Elementary School Principal Kris Davidson. "We started on July 27th."
Longfellow Elementary School is a year-round school which practices the 45-15 model. The students attend class for 9 to 10 week quarters and then get a 3 week break called intersessions. It's a much different school calendar than many parents are used to.
"My first impression was, 'What? You signed her up to go to school all year round? Kids are supposed to be running around... and summertime... and vacations.' I was just very resistant," said Terry Smoots, Longfellow Elementary School parent.
Terry said he didn't know much about the program, and had made his judgment without any information on the year-round school concept. But an invitation to an open house before his daughter started kindergarten 6 years ago opened his eyes to a different option in education.
"The curriculum was sort of advanced, meaning it was out of the box. It wasn't the traditional type setting," said Smoots.
Terry and his wife have been happy with their daughter's education. And statistics show there are many other families who have children attending Longfellow that should also be happy.
Between 52 and 60 percent of the student population is low-income, and 51 percent of the students are minorities. Yet these populations out-performed their peers within the district and across the state in reading and math during the 2010-2011 school year narrowing the achievement gap between this population and the white and non-free and reduced priced lunch population.
"Whenever you look at your data, you have to break it out by Black, Hispanic, White, free and reduced, non-free and reduced priced lunch, limited English learners, special education. And what we saw is not as large of a gap as the norm or the average in the state of Minnesota," said Davidson.
Educators say part of the reason these students are performing at such a high level is the year-round calendar which helps students avoid summer slide.
"When they come back, they're ready to be back," said Kim Firstbrook, Longfellow Elementary School teacher. "They're happy to be back at school and they're recharged and ready to go. And I as their teacher am recharged."
But most everything comes at a price. While the principal at Longfellow in Rochester says there is no additional cost for teachers because they work the same number of contracted days as their peers in a traditional school, it does cost a little more to bus the students.
"We provide transportation city-wide as opposed to certain locked boundaries," said Davidson. "We have students coming from all over the city. So, naturally that costs more and you need some funding to support that."
But Davidson says don't read too much into that because he just started his role as principal at Longfellow this school year and doesn't know exact numbers. What he does know is that this model of education has worked for 15 years in the district and has proven it to be a success for their community.
"In my existence here, I've seen a very strong school culture," said Davidson. "And I think when everybody knows every child that walks through our doors and every body is responsible for that child that's important. Kids are here throughout the year. I think that's very very important. We know our kids. We know their needs. Every other school does that, as well. I think our calendar allows us to embrace it more over the calendar year. That's important.