Florida schools piloting YEAR-ROUND classes…

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Florida schools piloting YEAR-ROUND classes…

Three Florida school districts are shifting some schools to a year-round calendar as part of a pilot program designed to test the possibility for all schools.

Schools in Marion County, Alachua County, and Brevard County were selected to participate in a pilot program approved by lawmakers last year to test the concept of year-found schools over the next five years, according to the Oscala StarBanner.

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Participating schools will track data on the results for the Florida Department of Education, which is expected to make recommendations to the governor and Legislature on possible expansion following the 2028-29 school year.

Alachua County Public Schools outlined goals of improving student academic performance, behavior and attendance in its successful application for the pilot program, with school officials citing potential benefits including less learning loss during summer, continuity in programs, and stronger bonds between students and staff.

“As a former teacher and principal, I saw so many students who lost a lot of ground academically over the summer,” Superintendent Shane Andrew said on the district’s website. “I’m excited about the great potential this program has to provide the students at Metcalfe and Rawlings [elementary schools] with the consistent support they need to keep learning throughout the year.”

While officials in Alachua County are still working on the details, the school year would begin in July and the summer break would be much shorter. Traditionally, year-round schools begin in mid-July and alternate between 10 weeks of instruction and two seeks off, concluding in late May, according to the Gainesville Sun.

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In Alachua County, “every effort will be made to align the new calendars with existing breaks, such as Thanksgiving,” according to the district. “The district is also working on plans to adjust transportation, school meals, after school programs and other schedules.”

The new calendars are not expected to change the 180 days a year students attend school, the length of the school day, or teacher pay, Alachua County officials said.

Stella Arduser, principal of Rawlings Elementary School, one of the two participating in Alachua County, believes the shift to year-round instruction could be a game-changer for students there.

“This is a possibility that hasn’t been tapped into, and maybe this is what we’ve needed all along,” she said. “Some of our students already come to summer school, so why not make year-round instruction part of the educational experience and fabric here at Rawlings Elementary School?”

Arduser and Metcalfe Elementary School Principal Christina Robbins are now vetting the plans with students, staff and parents.

“They’re definitely open to the potential benefits, but of course they’re also interested in hearing the details,” Robbins said. “We want to make a long-lasting impact on our students’ achievement, and this could be the answer that everyone is looking for.”

Families with elementary-aged students in Alachua County will be able to request their child attend a year-round school, or not.

While school leaders in Alachua County are optimistic about the pilot, board members in Brevard County who have experienced year-round school are warning it could cause problems for some families, Florida Today reports.

Board Chair Megan Wright noted that while the change could help reduce teacher burnout and the “summer slide” of student academic performance, she noted it was hard on her family when she attended year-round school and her brother in high school did not.

The pilot program is only for elementary schools, and Wright and fellow board member Jennifer Jenkins suggested that might pose a problem for some.

“Doing them completely different from one another is just like a disaster for families, if secondary schools are running on a different calendar than elementary,” Jenkins said.

“For it to really succeed, it has to be district-wide,” Wright agreed.

Other board members opposed that idea, and instead suggested the district should make year-round school optional for families that want it.

“As far as the idea of moving the entire district to a year-round schedule, I’ll just be honest, right off the bat, I am not in favor of that,” board member Katye Campbell said. “If there’s families that say, ‘I love that idea, I want to go there,’ they can choice in … we have such a choice-friendly district because of all of our options, they’re always going to have a place to go if that schedule does or does not work out.”

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