Closure: Balanced calendar not coming to Ann Arbor schools any time soon
The Ann Arbor school board has washed its hands of the balanced calendar debate, abandoning a proposal to try out year-round classes with periodic breaks throughout the year.
Chris Asadian I AnnArbor.com
But then, after exhausting their opinions and concurring with the administration’s hesitancy to move forward without more exploration, the trustees decided not to waste any additional time on the balanced calendar.
“I don’t want them to study it anymore,” said board President Deb Mexicotte referring to the administration. “I want them to put their efforts into these other things. I don’t really think it’s worth heading down this path. I think we can do a lot more with instructional time right now to impact kids without the balanced calendar.
"And I’m not convinced that this level of destruction (from a new calendar) is going to give us more bang for our buck."
The balanced calendar idea was proposed back in 2010 in tandem with the Mitchell-Scarlett Teaching and Learning Collaborative, an interactive partnership between the University of Michigan and Ann Arbor’s Scarlett Middle School and Mitchell Elementary School.
The calendar originally was presented as an integral part of the collaborative’s program to improve student achievement. But since the program's launching in September, the university and AAPS staff already have seen improvements without using a balanced calendar approach, said Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Alesia Flye.
A balanced calendar, she explained, is essentially a school year with 180 days of instruction like a traditional calendar. The days just occur in a different order, eliminating the unproductive summer months.
Trustee Andy Thomas said given the information presented, it's not likely the district even could seriously consider this in the next two years, logistically or financially.
"I guess I was under the impression this was going to be cost neutral," he said, after Flye explained the significant start-up costs other schools saw with the calendar.
Flye’s recommendation to board members was if they wanted to pursue the calendar further, the district should put together a committee of administrators, teachers, support staff, union leaders, parents and students to study it and to determine whether a district-wide approach, cluster approach, school-by-school approach or an opt-in/opt-out approach would be best for all stakeholders.
Mexicotte said the board got too far away from the original concept of the calendar, which was intended solely for Mitchell and Scarlett. If the district decides to pursue a balanced calendar in the future, the concept should come back as part of the district’s strategic plan, achievement gap plan, discipline gap plan or another big-picture initiative, rather than as a single agenda item, the board decided.
"I'm not interested in it anymore," Mexicotte said. "The U-M partnership has already given us a lot of gains. They're OK with where they are at and have acknowledged it. And so (the balanced calendar) is not a hill I feel like we should die on, considering we’ve got all these other great hills to climb."
Superintendent Patricia Green was encouraged by Wednesday’s discussion, she said.
“These are the pieces that are starting to take hold and to come to life,” she said. “We are sharing the kinds of things we believe in. There have been so many topics that have come to us from the board that we don’t have time to research and do what we want to bring forward because we are so busy doing what has come to us.”
One direction the board gave: “We have to get more time with our students if we are serious about competing with students on an international level,” Trustee Christine Stead said.
Fellow Trustee Simone Lightfoot said one way to do this would be to ensure more students have access to summer school. Thomas said another way would be to consider block scheduling at more schools and to ensure children have uninterrupted class time for reading and language arts.
Trustee Susan Baskett said although the balanced calendar report may have been a bit of a burden for the board and administration, they “owed it to the community.”
“It’s finished,” she said. “We’ve put closure on it.”