Board members discuss whether year-round schooling would increase scores

Michelle Stuckey
January 27, 2011 at 2:18 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

With a new rating system going into effect and the state raising the bar for public school performance, St. Charles Parish decided last week to research year-round schools in the hopes that it would bring up performance scores and keep kids learning all year long. School Board member John Smith brought up year-round school during a Jan. 18 committee meeting as something the school district needs to start looking into.

"I really didn't give year round school much thought, but if we start to look into it and see that that's something we want to try, I would be for it," said School Board president Ellis Alexander. "But before that I would be more apt to look at Saturday school…especially for the kids who are falling behind, as a way to try to help them stay on level.

"Right now, we have asked the administration to kind of look and see what would work and be best for our school district."

Rochelle Cancienne-Touchard, public information director for the schools, said that the administration will be gathering information in the coming weeks to present to the board to see if year-round school is plausible for the parish.

Melinda Huff Bernard, chairperson of the Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee, said that she believes year-round school could be an option, but that more research is definitely needed.

“Is an extended school year an answer? Possibly,” she said. “I absolutely have some research to do on that and I think we also need to look at other options as well.”

One concern she had with year-round school is that it would be costly, having to pay teachers for more time, pay more utilities and for more bus service. But she said the benefit is that there seems to be more focused time on instruction.

“We're not building refrigerators or cars, we are dealing with children who come to us with varying needs and learning rates with emotional and behavioral issues,” Bernard said.

“I understand exactly what Mr. Smith was saying when he said we now have such an enormous amount of assessment information to try to analyze our children’s strengths and weaknesses, but we have to find another way to address them than the way we currently have.

“You have this enormous curriculum that has to be taught and you have individual needs that you're working with…to find the time to individualize becomes a real challenge…we have to start thinking out of the box.”

While board members agreed that year-round was something to look into, some were not optimistic about the effects year-round school could have.

Board member Sonny Savoie said that he has researched year-round school extensively and that it seems to work best as a temporary fix to get schools back on track.

Dennis Naquin, past board president, said that he encourages more research on the subject, but doubts it will be the best option.

“I think it’s an option we have to look at, but is it going to be a popular option? Absolutely not,” Naquin said. “I’m not sure if that's the avenue we need to go.”

Naquin said that year-round school would be a burden to parents and teachers who use summertime for camps and vacations.

“I think teachers will be 100 percent against it. Secondly, you have to convince parents that it will be a good thing…because it will be putting a lot of burden on parents,” he said. He said there would be a lot of obstacles and conflicts to overcome if the district ever decides to implement year-round school.

Naquin said he hopes that the massive burden of paperwork on teachers will be dealt with before more drastic measures are taken.

“Teachers in the classroom are just consumed with so much documentation right now that I feel…it’s affecting the amount of quality time they can dedicate to the education of the students,” he said.

View other articles written Michelle Stuckey

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