By Ernie Over, managing editor, county10.com
(Riverton, Wyo.) – The trustees of the Riverton school district Tuesday night agreed that Superintendent Terry Snyder and the district’s administration and staff could begin preliminary investigations into a year-around school calendar, “for the future.”
“I am just seeking approval to study it, I’m not endorsing it, and you are not approving it,” Snyder emphasized during his presentation to the trustees. “I think it has great potential, but we need to plan with everyone’s involvement.” He said the initial planning would be internal before all stakeholders would be involved. “This is not for this next year, or the next, but for the future,” he said. He said planning for such a calendar would take several years at a minimum should the district ultimately move in that direction.
The discussion of a year-around calendar was sparked by a bill in the Wyoming Legislature, HB244, that would provide for a year-around calendar for Wyoming School Districts. “I’m not supportive of the bill because I don’t think it goes far enough on student learning,” Snyder said. Even if the state were to adopt a year-around calendar, the superintendent said he would rather develop one best suited for Riverton. “If you were to combine the stretched calendar concept with an emphasis on learning, that would be as great as any change we’ve ever done in education,” he said. “But you have to do it all, not just stretch the calendar. I truly believe you have to have an intersession design and programs to make the difference you want to make.”
The bill under consideration in Cheyenne would provide three-week-long intersessions, which Snyder said is not enough to allow district staff time for professional development. He said six week intersessions would be more appropriate. “It would be easier to let education be the way it has always been, but if we can do something that significantly improves things for kids, then we should try,” he said.
By consensus, the board approved without dissent.
“It’s been proven that continuous education does improve kids’ learning,” said Dean Peranteaux, who noted that the United States has among the shortest days in school in the developed world. “I think it’s worth pursuing.” Lynette Jeffries agreed with that sentiment. Larry Christensen noted that the more time that vacation is extended, the more learning loss kids have.
“This is an opportunity to reduce or eliminate that learning loss, and reduce the time needed to renew at the beginning of the school year,” Snyder said. ” Just looking at the common core, if we can eliminate that review time we can add other concepts at the beginning of the school year.”
Carl Manning said the present school calendar now in general use in the country was established in 1900 to support agriculture. “It’s not viable for today’s world. We want kids and adults to come into the workplace ready to work and have a sense of time with all the soft skills we can give them,” he said. “Three months off is not productive.”
With heads around the board dais nodding in approval, Snyder was given permission to investigate the concept further.