Ann Arbor schools postpone balanced calendar switch for Mitchell and Scarlett until 2013-14
Note: This story has been updated with information from a letter sent to staff and parents Friday
The balanced calendar piece of the Mitchell and Scarlett/University of Michigan Partnership will be postponed until the 2013-14 school year, district officials confirmed Friday.
The partnership is still on track to begin in the 2011-12 school year and was approved by the Ann Arbor school board in December.
District spokesperson Liz Margolis said the committee forming the partnership decided the best idea would be to let parents have some experience with the program before moving to the new calendar, which would shorten the summer vacation and add weeklong breaks during other times of the year.
“We realized there are still many parents unsettled about the calendar issues and the best thing to do is move forward with (the rest of) the plan,” she said.
A change to the school calendar would not take place until the 2013-2014 school year, Margolis said.
The balanced calendar portion of the program has been by far the most hotly debated aspect of the partnership, which will pair teacher interns from the U-M School of Education with teachers at Mitchell Elementary School and Scarlett Middle School to help create new teaching strategies.
The balanced calendar was originally dropped from the 2011-12 school year plans in December.
A committee has been working on a proposed calendar that would see school at Mitchell and Scarlett begin in early August and end in late June. Breaks would be set for one or two weeks at the end of September; the full week of Thanksgiving; during winter and spring breaks at other AAPS schools, along with an additional week; and six weeks in summer.
The partnership will still offer inter-sessions that will allow for additional learning opportunities during school breaks, Margolis said. The inter-sessions are optional activities planned and taught by teachers from the buildings with participation from U-M interns and faculty. Possible inter-session activities include writing camps and science camps.
The decision to postpone the balanced calendar portion of the partnership comes after a survey about the proposed program concluded earlier this month. The program's planners were not totally reliant on the results of the survey, Margolis said.
A total of 360 people took the survey, according to a letter sent to parents and staff members Friday.
According to the letter, most Mitchell and Scarlett respondents to the survey said they would stay at the schools if a balanced calendar was implemented. However, respondents from the feeder schools of Allen, Pittsfield and Carpenter elementary schools said they would not want to stay due to family scheduling conflicts.
Respondents from Allen, Pittsfield and Carpenter also said they would not want to participate in pilot inter-session programs as they are offered in 2011-12.
The letter stated it is still the desire of the committee to see the balanced calendar take effect in the future.
Lee Ann Dickinson-Kelley said in a recent memo to interim superintendent Robert Allen and the Ann Arbor school board that the decision was disappointing but in the best interest of the district.
"It is with some measure of disappointment that we arrive at this recommendation but all involved feel it is the most responsible position to take at this time," she said.
The committee forming the partnership is looking into opportunities for families in the district to either opt in or out of the program, she added. However, Margolis said, officials would like families going into the partnership to give it a shot.
“Really, what we want to do is put the program in place and have parents and students experience it as much as possible to have a good feel for what this type of program would look like,” she said. “Within two years, a decision could be made by families to move into it or not.”