School district says year-round school would improve attendance, close gaps

For some area students, this may be the last time they’ll need to get in the swing of school after a three-month summer break. La Crosse’s Northside Elementary School will be turning into a year-round school, which means smaller breaks throughout the year. The school district hopes the change will provide stability and prevent the “summer slide,” in which kids forget some of what they learned while on break.

The district’s superintendent said staff are hoping to see progress like they did in another school that made the switch. Northside Elementary staff members wanted to be a year-round school when Hamilton Elementary took on the new schedule.

“But at that time we were building the school and getting all of our systems figured out,” said Laura Huber, principal for Northside Elementary.

With Hamilton’s guidance, they’re now looking to implement a similar 45/15 schedule. That would mean students go to school for about 45 days and get 15 days off.

“What we learned from everybody was that the biggest benefit was the relationship with the child. To have that for a longer period of time,” Huber said.

The breaks would be used for ongoing learning with their teachers.

“Typically we’re also providing some afternoon activities and enrichment through our partners with The Boys and Girls Club and also through the Y,” said Randy Nelson, superintendent for the La Crosse School District.

That will also help parents who are concerned about childcare with a nontraditional schedule. But the superintendent admitted it may not work for all families.

“They might have a child who’s in a traditional schedule and now they’re really trying to straddle two schedules,” Nelson said.

Those who decide to stick with it might find that the new schedule will help Northside students close achievement gaps and improve attendance. The superintendent referenced the state report card for the school as evidence the schedule helps, but did not have any local numbers to show its benefits.

“There’s a lot of variables that come into this. But we do think that the year-round calendar, the 45/15 calendar, makes a difference at Hamilton. Which is why we want to take it forward to Northside,” Nelson said.

Over the next few months, the district will be creating two schedules, a year-round and traditional schedule, for Northside Elementary. That way staff can see if it is feasible to implement for the upcoming school year or if they need to hold off to work out any issues.

If the district does move ahead with the new year round calendar for Northside, the school would start around the same time as Hamilton in mid-July.