District considers expanding year-round school as classes begin at Hamilton

La Crosse School District gauging interest in 45-15 schedule at Lincoln Middle

Classes began Thursday at La Crosse’s only year-round school, but the district is looking into a possible expansion.

Hamilton Elementary is starting its fourth year on the 45-15 school calendar. The calendar gives students a six-week summer break with three three-week breaks throughout the year.

“It’s a bit more of a rhythm and ebb and a flow to the school year,” said Hamilton Principal Steve Michaels.

The La Crosse school district says it’s such a success, they’re asking teachers at Lincoln Middle School to spend their summer considering going year-round.

The district is considering shifting all or a portion of Lincoln Middle school to the 45-15 schedule so older students have that option as well, in hopes of increasing academic performance and providing more balance.

“They’re reducing the summer slide that we’ve seen before. When students have three full months off, they lose some of the curriculum and learning,” said La Crosse Superintendent Randy Nelson.

Michaels said a full enrollment is one indication that year-round school has been a success.

“We’re bursting at the seams. We’re elbow to elbow,” he said.

It’s still summer vacation at Lincoln Middle, but the empty classrooms could be full of students in as early as three years.

“If Lincoln were to go full year-round, it wouldn’t start until 2019,” Nelson said. “So that really ensures next year’s sixth graders will be able to go through Lincoln and not have a change in the middle of their career someplace. I think that’s fair, and it gives us time to plan.”

According to a district survey sent out earlier this year, almost half of parents who responded said they’d like to hear more about the option.

Some had concerns, including having children on different calendars and scheduling after school activities.

One solution is creating a school within a school.

“We’re looking at it from a more scaled back approach,” Nelson said. “What if we had just smaller group of students, 25, 50 or 75, doing it moving forward?”

In the meantime, school officials are still trying to gauge interest.

“We certainly think it’s doable,” Nelson said. “But there’s no reason to plan it if we don’t have parents and students who are interested in doing it.”

Nelson said staff from Lincoln Middle school have met this summer to discuss the pros and cons of becoming a year-round school and will report back to him by the end of the summer.

Parents who don’t want their children on a year-round calendar would have the option to send them elsewhere in the district.

If the district decides to move forward with Lincoln Middle School shifting to a year-round schedule, there would likely be another survey.

The earliest the district would make a full switch at Lincoln would be 2019.