TOMAH, Wis. - The halls of most schools are empty in mid-July.
“It will be different,” said Lemonweir Elementary 4-year-old kindergarten teacher Mary Gruber. “There's no one that can't say it will be different.”
But the change brings opportunity.
“I was excited about it from the very beginning,” said Gruber.
After five years of on-and-off planning, the Tomah School District is offering an alternative option to the traditional school year calendar.
“We are moving to a 45-15 calendar,” said Lemonweir Elementary Principal Nicki Pope. “And so July 18, our students will be here.”
Teachers are busy putting the finishing touches on their classrooms to prepare for year-round school.
“I don't feel like I'm giving up my summer,” said Gruber. “I feel like I'm going to be able to do summery-things with my kids in school. And maybe, instead of being at home cleaning my house, I'll be doing more fun things outside with the kids that I like to do.”
Improved learning is the main motivator behind this transition.
“We needed to do something different,” said Pope. “We needed a change. Our students were not performing to where we thought they were capable of performing. We were seeing a lot of loss over the summer months – re-teaching ... spending a lot of time re-teaching.”
So shortening the summer break to six weeks will hopefully help reduce summer slide.
“Through research and studies, this type of calendar helps to address that on the continuous day making sure you're on a regular schedule,” said Pope. “Keeping with that same routine is important for those families to maintain their own jobs, their own family schedule and for student retention here, as well.”
Beginning Tuesday, the students will go to school for 45 days and then have a 15-day break with the option of taking enrichment classes, remediation classes or a vacation much like summer school.
“It gives them an opportunity,” said Gruber. “Maybe they want to take a trip that would be best in the beginning of October versus July.”
The students will attend school in a 45-days-on and 15-days-off rotation until the last day of school, which will be June 5 this school year ... the same as the rest of the district.
“We worked really hard to keep it as consistent as possible for families who had students in other buildings,” said Pope.
Because educators at Lemonweir feel this calendar is a great option for families who are interested.
“This calendar will work for some folks, and it won't work for others,” said Gruber. “But if it does work for your family, you will see positive changes in behaviors and in academics. I'm positive.”
Lemonweir Elementary will be a choice school in the district, which means families can choose whether they want to send their child to the school.
Typical population for the school is 340 students. It currently has 310 enrolled.
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