Assignment: Education – Should year-round school expand?

La Crosse's year-round elementary school has been a success; some parents want to see an expansion

Learning in Traci Schneider’s kindergarten class at Hamilton Elementary School began in July. The students are a part of the La Crosse School District’s year-round school, which the principal says has been a success.

“We are overflowing with children, and that’s a good thing,” said Steve Michaels, Hamilton Elementary principal. “So that’s one indicator.”

Michaels said reducing “summer slide” is another measure of the calendar’s positive impact.

“There is no silver bullet,” said Michaels. “But we are seeing that we’re able to pick up where we leave off when we come back in July.”

Henry Greengrass’s fifth-grade son has been a part of the year-round calendar for three years. Greengrass would like to see the calendar expand into the middle school.

“I would prefer if Lincoln were that school,” said Greengrass. “It’s the same community. It’s the same neighborhoods that attend over at Hamilton. So it only makes sense.”

Greengrass is one of many parents at Hamilton Elementary who would like to see the calendar expand.

“I can’t speak for the whole PTO, but I think our position as a PTO is yes, we would like to see this progress on, at least, to middle school, if not beyond,” said Dan Manke, a Hamilton Elementary parent.

While some families at Hamilton are in favor of expanding the calendar, some parents in the Lincoln Middle, SOTA II and Coulee Montessori PTO have several questions and concerns.

“The sports. The sports is one thing, extracurricular, afterschool activities, because that does not really start until middle school,” said Kelly Ziegelvein, Lincoln Middle School parent. “And once you get to middle school and high school, you have lots of afterschool programs and sports that can cause a problem.”

“I think it’s worth checking out,” said Lynn Tully, the parent of a fifth grade student in the La Crosse School District. “I think it would be a logistical nightmare, and that’s someone else’s problem to deal with, like busing, school schedules, sports schedules. I’m sure people are going to have to find out how that’s all going to work with all different schools. But I think for the community, it’s worth checking out.”

Another big concern among some Lincoln PTO members is for families with more than one child.

“I would, for instance, I would have an eighth-grader here at Lincoln next year and two kids at Central,” said Ziegelvien. “And so they would be on completely different schedules, and that is a really big concern.”

Greengrass understands the concern because he has already been balancing differing school calendars.

“It is pretty interesting,” said Greengrass. “But with assistance with the La Crosse Youth and Learning Center and the Boys and Girls Club, I was able to do it with a fifth grader at Hamilton in year-round school, an eighth grader at Lincoln and a ninth grader at Central. It is a juggling act and it is doable.”

“We’ve got a number of families that have kids at different grade levels, different buildings, and it works for them because of the way that we put this together,” said Michaels.

The last day of school for the La Crosse district this year is June 2, 2016. That is also the last day of school for Hamilton’s year-round calendar.

“And then we work our way backwards throughout the year, and every day that’s a day off for other kids is a day off for us,” said Michaels.

“If you’re a student at Hamilton, any time your siblings have a day off, like for a holiday, you’re going to have it off, too. And there is care for you every day that your sibling is at school.”

As families begin to weigh the pros and cons of expanding year-round school, Michaels said the calendar has been a good thing for Hamilton Elementary.

“It’s been an extremely positive thing for our families and for our kids,” said Michaels. “It’s been a great thing for our staff. So all the way around, I feel really strong about…passionate about what it’s doing for us at our school.”

The La Crosse School District plans to have a district-wide survey available by February for families to share their thoughts on expanding the year-round calendar.