Central Community School in Elkader Considers 'Balanced Calendar'

by Katie Wiedemann, Reporter

ELKADER, Iowa - Central Community Schools in Elkader is proposing something kids might hate, a shorter summer break.

It's called a balanced calendar. The schedule means less time off but a longer time away from school for Christmas, spring break and as well as a new fall break.The idea is to limit how much students forget during longer summer breaks.

Inside Central High School's Intro to Journalism class, the proposed calendar change is a big topic of discussion.

"I think it would be cool if we were the first ones to try it out," Central High School Student Kensie Jurgens said.

First year superintendent Nick Trenkamp came up with the idea after examining statewide student achievement data. It showed only 75 percent of Iowa's students are proficient in reading.

"To me, that means we're letting one out of every four kids fail. And that's where I think we can do better, " Trenkamp said.

He believes tackling summer learning loss is one way to improve those statistics.

"The model of our traditional calendar is 150 years old. It was developed shortly after the Civil War. I challenge anybody to find a business that is 150 years old that's still doing the same thing they did back then. Why are we doing that in education?" Trenkamp said.

The proposed calendar would trim the summer from roughly 12 weeks to 7 weeks. Students and teachers would then take a couple weeks off in the late fall. They'd have a longer Christmas break and then another break in the spring.

The new concept that isn't sitting well with everyone.

"It cuts into your summer a lot. And that's very important to kids. You gotta have a summer," Travis Prier, Central High School student, said.

Some students and their parents say a shorter summer could cause them to open enroll out of the Central Community District.

"I race motocross, and I figured it out. I will miss 11 of the 15 scheduled days if they change the calendar. And that would be really hard for me to make up," Prier said.

Trenkamp has been taking feedback from parents and students. He says because of the feedback he will be making some revisions to the proposal. Either way, the changes wouldn't take effect until the 2015-2016 school year.
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