Schools (not) Out For Summer!

By Liberal Anthropologist

In another post, I had promised Bill Fox that I would create a main post so that a discussion on the value of year round schools could had.  I have done some research and I think there is no reason why Loudoun County should not adopt year round schools.  It would make optimal use of facilities and staff.  It may even have some academic benefits.  If nothing else it could allow us to stop building so many new schools.  A brief description of the concept can be seen in this 2004 article in Education Week.

“Multi-track year-round schooling is a specific type of year-round education with the primary purpose of alleviating overcrowding in schools. In this system, students and teachers are divided into groups, or tracks, of about the same size. Each track follows its own schedule, so that one track is on vacation while the others are in school. According to NAYRE, implementing a four-track system increases the capacity of a school by 33 percent. Research shows that multi-track year-round schooling can significantly save money if it is used in place of building costly new school facilities (Shields & Oberg, 2000; Bradford, 1995; Brekke, 1992).”

In reading around 8 articles, including recent ones, I did not see any downside to year-round schooling.  There were clear benefits to uses of school resources.  At worst on the academic side the studies were neutral and many showed a positive effect.  I personally would welcome year round schooling as it would make it easier to schedule family vacations at different times of the year.  It seems to be a no-brainer in Loudoun County where we need to build more schools. In some areas this could have saved a lot of grief.  As an example, if this had been in place at Stone Bridge High School, I imagine it would have easily accommodated the student population problems that had developed there without the massive public issues.  I imagine it would even eliminate the need for HS-8 and all the issues surrounding that.

Somebody tell me why not?  I didn’t do my usual extensive research.  Otherwise I hope the new School Board will move quickly on this and save a bunch of money.  They will move from mere heroes to demigods.


Comments

  • liz says:

    Thank you, Ed, I’d forgotten that my high school was on a 7:15 to 4:15 day, with seniors coming in early and freshman coming in late.

  • TCJohnson says:

    So if people don’t want their kids taking foreign languages they want to make sure it is not available to any child?

    I think Baseball is a boring sport and I don’t think I should have to financially support highschool baseball team. I realize, however, that I live in a community and have to support the schools as a whole.

  • Bill Fox says:

    SewCreativeMom – Other states also have mandatory standardized tests that are administered on specific dates, but they have worked it out. I also know that other industries outside of education have buildings that require regular maintenance, including roofs and most industries do not have the luxury of having their buildings vacant 3 months out of the year.

    If we were to change the number of days that we wanted kids to be in school, we would have to change the tracks accordingly. It could be done. Like I said, the downside is logistical challenges. I’m confident we can work it out.

  • Leej says:

    Hillsboro, , Dalyn has put back on my meds why do you think all of a sudden I am acting this way ;-)

    Bill Fox on a serious note I congratulate on posting on this very public forum and participate in a meaningful way, it is rare a politician in office will put them selves out there.
    I hope you start a trend :-)

    Thanks that you would support my idea, but it does not have a chance in hell. But I live in the creative world mostly but back to developing and building here in Texas to make some money again.

    And thanks for not commenting on my spelling and grammar,, when people do I find it hilarious. when I need to write something perfect I have Dalyn do it ;-) Like I commented on this forum about Stevens Miller,s comment about me, when you can draw paint and create and design and make a incredible living off it then comment about what education is all about.

    Many different kinds of education. :-) As there are people. End of story and my last comment on this topic.

  • Eric the 1/2 troll says:

    Bill,

    Sccording to this article, the only reason we have a waiver on start date is due to snow days.:

    http://www.loudountimes.com/index.php/news/article/schools_still_cant_open_before_labor_day123/

    “Under the existing law, schools can start before Labor Day if they must frequently close because of inclement weather. Seventy-seven of Virginia’s 132 school divisions received such waivers for this school year. Most of them are in the more rural, less populated western half of Virginia.

    The largest school divisions in the Richmond area, Tidewater and Northern Virginia do not qualify for waivers.”

    Again, I hope you seek an honest legal opinion before you head too far down this path.

  • TCJohnson says:

    Eric,

    I should point out that the Barcroft Elementary in Arlington (Alexandria, don’t have it right in front of me) is on a full year schedule. So they were able to at least.

  • Hillsboro says:

    Eric,

    Year round schools are waived from the start date requirement per
    22.1-79.

    http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?000+cod+22.1-79.1

  • mcham6 says:

    How do the sports programs work with students being on different tracks?

  • Liberal Anthropologist says:

    My take is there are few if any negatives being discussed here. Some cultural shifts are required and a sensible phased implementation should be done to work out the kinks in some test schools and then expand.

    But I see nothing of note on why not to do it and lots of people who either in favor or at worst concerned and cautious.

    I would suggest the board consider implementing a pilot program. My guess is many people will sign on and demand will grow.

  • Pragmatist says:

    From 1970 till 1981, Prince William County used a year-round school calendar. They created four color calendars and assigned students to a color by geographic location. The schedule was 45-15. Students went to school for 45 days, then were off for 15 days. That meant that 25% of the school population was always on vacation, giving the system a 25% bump in capacity without building a new school.

    All the kids around me were on the same color calendar, so we went to school together and were out of school together. Granted, daycare wasn’t quite the deal it is today, but programs adapted to the school schedule, just as they would in Loudoun.

    When the program was first implemented, parents screamed and cried….and when the program was eliminated, parents screamed and cried. It’s all in what you’re used to….

    I think it is a great option for Loudoun because of the reduced CIP demands. I also think Loudoun should be building bigger high schools. My graduating class had over 1,000 kids in it and somehow I survived to be a productive member of society. Maybe a 4,000 student high school is too much, but I also think Loudoun’s schools should have bigger populations than they do at present.

  • Prag, why did PWC end 45-15?

  • Pragmatist says:

    Lloyd, the program was implemented because of a population explosion. PWC couldn’t afford to build all the schools they needed, so they went with an innovative program to buy time.

    By the late 70′s / early 80′s, the population growth rate had slowed considerably, so it was possible to build a few more schools and return to a traditional school calendar.

    Loudoun seems to have chosen the path of build, build, build, with the problem being the cost of all those CIP projects. With no significant commercial tax base, the expense of these projects is clearly reflected in our real estate tax rate. To get true relief, hard choices have to be made. Year round school is one choice that could help.

  • Bwana says:

    My sister and I were in PW County schools during the year round era, but it never got to Western PW. Gar-Field and Woodbridge were year round, but Brenstville wasn’t and I don’t believe Stonewall was.

    OHS was on a split shift in 1974-75, then OPHS was finished and we all went back to a traditional schedule (The CIty of Manassas paid a tuition fee to the county to send city kids to county schools in 1975-77).

    Manassas began its school system in 1977, and we were all back to OHS.

    The real non-starter back then was the Open School concept. Stonewall, OP, Garfield, and Woodbridge were all built as open concept schools, but the open concept was never really implemented at any of them…although I am sure the structure of the open school probably helped with the class overlaps of year round schoo.

  • Pragmatist says:

    Bwana, it’s funny, Western PW seemed like a distant land when I was a kid…I didn’t know those schools didn’t go onto the year round calendar. I think there may have been enough farming activity in the west to necessitate summers off for the farm hands…

    The open concept was crazy! In 5th grade, I was deemed unsuitable for the open concept and placed in a classroom with 4 walls…our teacher died during the school year…not sure if there was a connection.

  • Eric the 1/2 troll says:

    “By the late 70′s / early 80′s, the population growth rate had slowed considerably, so it was possible to build a few more schools and return to a traditional school calendar.”

    But if it such a great program, why would they give it up? There must have been negatives that they wished to remove by reverting back to standard scheduling.

  • Eric the 1/2 troll says:

    “My graduating class had over 1,000 kids in it and somehow I survived to be a productive member of society.”

    Such anecdotal arguments are not only inconclusive but, in this case, are contradictory to the predominance of evidence on record.

  • Eric the 1/2 troll says:

    “Loudoun seems to have chosen the path of build, build, build, with the problem being the cost of all those CIP projects.”

    You do realize that at the same time that there is serious discussion of building ever larger schools and even converting to year round schooling, there is equally serious discussion of CLOSING perfectly usable elementary school space in western Loudoun? Does this not seem asinine to anybody else here?

  • Pragmatist says:

    Eric, you seem to be pretty much against the whole idea, and maybe there’s good reasons not to go with year-round schooling. Anecdotal or not, the achievements of members of my graduating class are very much in line with the rest of Virginia schools at the time. I’m not aware of any study that says graduates of Eastern PWC schools in the 70′s and very early 80′s were any better or worse prepared for life than anyone else in public school at the time. It was a very normal school experience for me and my classmates. We had really good football teams, we had cheerleaders, we took SAT tests and some of us went to college.

    I don’t remember much of the dicussion when the system changed back to a traditional calendar, but I suspect it had a lot to do with the fact that we were the only school system in Virginia on this calendar. Maybe Kings Dominion was starving for customers and we got blamed for their lack of revenue because we were in school when they were open?

  • Pragmatist, your information confirms my theory that the reason school districts go 45-15 is to address overcrowding on a temporary basis, not because it’s necessarily better for the kids. That’s what I’ve seen in the school district in which I grew up (also in the 70s – early 80s).

    In Loudoun, however, we’re not looking at a temporary population boom in the elementary school ranks. The poulation will continue to grow, so whether you go year round now or not, new schools will need to be built.

    Bottom line for me is this. If you want to do it to save money in the short term, fine. I agree it saves money for a while, but I still don’t think it’s worth it. Just don’t tell me, “It’s for the children.”

  • liz says:

    On school size, by the way:

    From an article on the Intel Science Talent Finalists, I learned that Angela Wong from Shaker High School (enrollment, 2100) is one of the finalists. She’s one of 10 finalists from New York State, which sent more finalists than any other state.

    I haven’t checked the sizes of the other schools beyond Stuy, and Bronx HS of Science, but Stuyvesant sent two finalists and Bronx Sci sent one.

    Meanwhile, congratulations to our own LCPS for sending the only Virginia finalist.

  • Pragmatist says:

    Lloyd, I don’t disagree…PWC continued to grow (continues to this day), but it was the growth rate in the 70′s that was the issue. Tract housing sprang up from cornfields (sound familiar?) and new residents moved in at a very fast pace for a fairly short period of time. I think Loudoun’s experience is the same…our level of growth has slowed considerably and I’d be surprised if we returned to the “fastest growing county” any time soon.

    Personally, I think it’s too late to consider year round school for Loudoun as a way to save construction dollars; too much has already been built. Our seeds have already been sown and we’re now reaping the results in the form of the highest real estate tax rate in the state.

  • FedUp says:

    “Loudoun seems to have chosen the path of build, build, build,…”

    The School Board really needs to examine how Fairfax provides school seats other than just building new schools. They use a combination of modular additions, portable classrooms, 2-story elementary schools and larger high schools.

    In a previous post, someone mentioned Fairfax has built only 2 high schools in the past 15 years, while Loudoun has built 5 or 6. Part of that is because Fairfax schools have a capacity of 2,500 students while most Loudoun schools are only 1,600 students. I, too, went to a large high school and I will attest there is nothing bad about them. Maybe a 3,000-4,000 student high school is a bit too large, but certainly not 2,200-2,500.

    Why not shared stadiums? The Loudoun Valley high school renovations include $2.5 million for artificial turf fields. This seems unneccesary when Woodgrove high school is so close by and already has these luxurious fields. Why can’t they just remove the stadium at Loudoun Valley, which would provide room for a baseball field, and the sports teams can share Woodgrove’s stadium?

    BTW – Alice Cooper has his own late night radio show now:

    http://nightswithalicecooper.com/

  • Eric the 1/2 troll says:

    “Eric, you seem to be pretty much against the whole idea, and maybe there’s good reasons not to go with year-round schooling. Anecdotal or not, the achievements of members of my graduating class are very much in line with the rest of Virginia schools at the time.”

    I have stated that I am not for the idea, however, my anecdotal evidence comment was addressed to your comments on school size. There have been MANY studies done on school size and all anecdotal evidence aside, it overwhelming concludes that smaller schools (down to a threshold minimum) are far superior to larger schools. Same comment goes to FU as well.

  • Eric the 1/2 troll says:

    “On school size, by the way:…”

    Liz, students who excel will excel in pretty much any school environmental (large or small). The impact of large schools is to the norm and the lower fringe students (i.e., more student tend to fall through the cracks in larger schools).

  • Bill Fox says:

    The only comment I would have about my proposals vs. more traditional approaches to year-round schools is that in the traditional approach, families are forced into a specific track based on geography. While this is a benefit in that it does more to keep communities together and simplifies busing, it also forces you into a track that may not be compatible with the rest of your life. In addition, my plan brings in additional choice and specialization elements that actually make the system MORE DESIRABLE than a traditional calendar model, and not a less-desirable short-term substitute.

    Plus, regardless of our rate of growth, we should always be looking for ways to leverage our resources and use our existing facilities to their maximum extent. $30-100 million dollar buildings sitting dormant 3 months out of the year is tantamount to fiscal negligence.

  • FedUp says:

    Troll, how about providing a link to one of those studies that shows small high schools are better.

  • TCJohnson says:

    “Plus, regardless of our rate of growth, we should always be looking for ways to leverage our resources and use our existing facilities to their maximum extent. $30-100 million dollar buildings sitting dormant 3 months out of the year is tantamount to fiscal negligence.”

    Where I grew up they would open up the schools to half day classes. These were more sports classes, chess classes, drama, some science for thoe nature…things like that. There would be a fee of course. Much like the things Loudoun community centers offer during the summer.

  • Ed Myers says:

    Just because the building is big doesn’t mean the school is big. Middle schools already divide the class into three houses. That makes the school feel like a 250 student school instead of 750.

  • Eric the 1/2 troll says:

    FU,

    I have read on this extensively as I have repeatedly made the case to LCPS in past years. There has been a long running debate on the issue but time and again the primary conclusion is that small schools are better for the student than big schools (btw, what is a smaller school than home schools and we all know how well THEY do, right?)

    But here is a pretty good synopsis article that references a lot of the primary research on the matter:

    http://www.edb.utexas.edu/hsns/HSNSbrief1.pdf

    The last time I REALLY dug into the research was back around 1997-8 or so. The articles I read put the optimum HS size at about 900 students (the idea is that below this you lose some programmatic offerings that you have in larger schools). I forget what the ES school size was but I think we are well over 2X the optimum size already in Loudoun.

    As far as the “house” option or the “school within a school” concept, the studies I read suggested that this is less advantageous than simply building smaller schools to begin with. The studies that concluded that this approach was beneficial were looking at the option as a way of addressing mega-schools that ALREADY existed (at that time restricted to inner cities mostly). In other words, building smaller schools and converting the already big schools to “schools within a school” is the suggested approach.

    Notice that the supposed cost savings for mega-schools are by no means guaranteed. There may be a capital savings (which are amortized over decades) BUT there is at least an equal operating cost (if not higher) per student. As Bill will attest to, support staff are budgeted on a per student basis (case in point was the saving Bill et al found with Champe HS only opening with 500 students but being staffed at full occupancy on day 1). Now in western Loudoun at least, these mega-schools are costing us about 2x the norm for transportation (to say nothing of the bus rides some of these kids have to endure at that).

    When the whole Woodgrove HS debate was going on, I had a very smart friend of mine (he few A-10s in Iraq and Afghanistan, btw) who approached administration with the idea of instead of building two HS at 1800 kids each over the next (say) 10 years, build three smaller schools (closer to the kids) at about 1250 over (say) 15 years. He analyzed the numbers down to the nth detail (growth projections/timing, debt service, transportation, admin staff, land costs, etc) and clearly concluded that not only would it be better for the kids, families, and community but it would save quite a bit of money for the taxpayers. He was told “thank you very much” and the study he did was filed (most like in the circular file).

    Bigger is not always better and bigger is not always cheaper. The devil is always in the details.

  • Liberal Anthropologist says:

    Throwing out another thought, what about adding hybrid online education with in school and reduce the amount of time in school. Like 3 days in school and 2 days online. Or some other formula. The point being to extend the classroom back to the home. Not suggesting pure online. I am not in favor of that. A hybrid.

  • TCJohnson says:

    That would work for families where one patent stays at home but not for families with two working patents, which I believe is most families at this point. Who would supervise the children? There is already a lack of affordable health care in this county with long waiting lists.

    Besides you are assuming all these families have computers and good Internet connections at home. Big assumption.

    Parents in this county would never go for it in a million years.

  • TCJohnson says:

    And if you mean just offering it for parents who want it, I don’t see there being enough to warrant it because it would still be for those with one parent at home at most of those who would op for that are home schooling already.

    And if you got enough children interested in that to make a difference in school size, you would need to make a huge monetary investment in the servers, the software, the support staff, server maintenance and software patches. Would we still save money after all that?

  • Leej says:

    Just was watching Stossel on Fox. He had Rhee the ex superintended of the DC schools.

    Some interesting facts private schools spend less then public schools and mostly turn out better students then public schools and Catholic schools spend even less ad still turn out better students on the whole.

    This is going to sound familiar Rhee said the central staff n the in he DCc schools was about a thousand people. A she said a huge amount of the money per student goes to bloated staff especially in the central office. Sound familiar around here

  • Ed Myers says:

    Technology should allow for larger class sizes and thus more teacher productivity. If lots of the course is online then the teacher can focus on helping those struggling. With computer scoring teacher workloads decline.

    Many people were ticked off about the smart board purchases but in the schools that integrated them well into the lessons it was a tremendous labor saving device for the teacher.

    If the money in schools is in classrooms and salaries, then increasing class sizes and filling the classroom more hours per day is the fastest way to reduce the cost per student.

  • FedUp says:

    Troll, your link article cites one study where operational costs of small high schools were 18% higher than for large high schools. I imagine capital costs would be even higher. Sorry, but I think there are clear operational and capital savings to be realized with larger high schools.

    Not only that, but look at how long it takes to get a new high school built these days. How many years did it take for Woodgrove, HS-7 and HS-8? That can result in extreme overcrowding like what happened at Loudoun Valley and is now the case at Freedom and Briar Woods. That impact on the quality of education has to be taken into consideration. The fewer high schools that need to be built, the less this will occur.

  • Eric the 1/2 troll says:

    “Not only that, but look at how long it takes to get a new high school built these days. How many years did it take for Woodgrove, HS-7 and HS-8? That can result in extreme overcrowding like what happened at Loudoun Valley and is now the case at Freedom and Briar Woods. That impact on the quality of education has to be taken into consideration. The fewer high schools that need to be built, the less this will occur.”

    Smaller HS have less of an impact on the community (often are WANTED) and require much less land to be purchased (in big chunks).

    Part of the big problem with building mega-schools is that you have to let the existing schools get WAY overcrowded before you can justify building and opening the new school (even at 50% full). The bigger you build the new school, the worse this problem becomes. Building smaller schools reduces the problem of pre-opening overcrowding if the existing schools.

  • Eric the 1/2 troll says:

    “Troll, your link article cites one study where operational costs of small high schools were 18% higher than for large high schools.”

    I would not say that is precisely what it concluded. But even if you wish to ignore what they said and cite that single statistic, please note that they were comparing 2000 student high schools to 600 student schools. We are ALREADY at 1800 student schools and what I am suggesting is a shift (especially in the west) to a 1200 student school.

    For the record, the impct of larger schools on the children is pretty clearly seen in the cost per student graduated numbers they discussed (quoted below).

    “A study conducted by Stiefel and others in New York City was the most frequently cited study in the literature reviewed. The
    study looked at 128 high schools using school-by-school budget information for 1995–1996. Schools with fewer than 600
    students spent $7,628 per student annually, an annual cost $1,410 more than that spent by schools with over 2,000 students. What is more, looking at cost per graduate has been argued to be more useful than the traditional cost per student
    comparison. When looking at the cost per graduate, the cost for small schools was $49,553, compared to $49,578 at larger
    schools.

    Lawrence et al. (2002) and Wasley et al. (2000) asserted that it is far more costly to allow students to drop out than it is to
    invest in students’ graduating. Social costs of large schools examined in the Lawrence et al. (2002) report include higher dropout rates, lower graduation rates, high rates of
    violence and vandalism, higher absenteeism, and higher teacher
    dissatisfaction. Lawrence et al. wrote, “This report indicates that creating facilities for small schools can be done cost effectively,
    and that in fact, the cost of large schools is higher considering their negative outcomes” (p. 21).”

  • [...] a previous post we had a discussion about Year Round Multi-Track (schooling). Unlike many others on here, this post [...]

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