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Mike’s Musings – Like it or not, “balanced calendar” needs your attention

MikeAlright now, parents and kids, are lesson for today is “the balanced calendar” as educators would like to call it, or in layman’s terms- Year Around School!

Yes, that’s right. Clare Public Schools, at least Superintendent Doni Pummell has given it a lot of thought and is doing her best to force the community to consider it as well. The same is true in Mt. Pleasant, where Clare businessman and Mt. Pleasant School Board trustee, Don Chiodo is asking MP parents to weigh in on the subject.

For those not connected,  the balanced calendar concept offers roughly nine weeks of instruction and then three weeks off, all year long, with the exception of July, which students would have off as their summer break.

Of course year around school is nothing new. Many schools in warmer climes have been instructing students year around for a long long time. Here in the north, however, it is common thought that students should be allowed to enjoy summer without instruction, particularly after long harsh winters like the one we have just experienced.

Proponents, like Pummell and Chiodo, complain that the long summer layoff plays havoc on a student’s ability to retain what he or she has learned.

According to Pummell, “It takes up to 6-8 weeks for teachers to recapture the lost learning for many of our students.” She added, “A summer school program cannot reach all students and does not solve the issue.”

The concept is also being pushed by the State of Michigan Department of Education that claims better test scores are inevitable if schools would adopt the balanced calendar. They are actually offering grants to public schools that make the change.

In Mt. Pleasant a community-wide survey was conducted, and Superintendent Mike Pung said the results were mixed. That’s administrative-speak for its going to be a tough sell. Next step for them is to host a community-wide forum and allow the public to offer comments on the potential change.

I’m sure the sell won’t be any easier in Clare. It is human nature to fight change, and this suggested change will affect how we all live and conduct our daily lives. Will it better educationally for our kids? It sure seems like it. But do we want to sacrifice our summer vacations for better education? That’s a question we all will have to answer.

To soften the extent of change, Mt. Pleasant is looking at a pilot program where some K-6 classes or schools may be year around and others would stay with the more traditional calendar. Chiodo and Pung say the best way is to offer parents and students a choice versus telling them this is the way it’s going to be no matter what.

You gotta give Pummell credit. She could certainly sit back and do nothing. But as she has said, as the education leader in this community she has been charged with the responsibility to make Clare aware of concepts that might provide a better education for our children.

She is asking for your input. You can contact her at dpummell@clare.k12.mi.us or call her secretary and make an appointment to give her a piece of your mind in person. This is potentially one of the biggest changes this community will face. Don’t sit back in your easy chair and complain to your significant other. Stand up and be heard. Do you or do you not want to further investigate this concept?

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