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Parents Sing Praises Of Year-Round Elem. School Schedule

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Students at Barcroft Elementary school, which has a largely year-round school schedule.
Armando Trull
Students at Barcroft Elementary school, which has a largely year-round school schedule.

Rising 6th grader Nick Dubois has had his entire childhood to get used to the modified school calendar at Barcroft.

"There's a good side and a not so good side. The good side is you get a bunch of breaks throughout the year," he says. "But the bad side is that your summer vacation gets cut in half."

But this year Nick will have the full 8 week summer break that the rest of Arlington's students have, because he's moving on to middle school, and there are no middle schools in the county that use Barcroft's nearly year-round calendar.

Parents cite benefits of year-round schedule

And while students see two sides to Barcroft's schedule, most parents simply sing its praises.

Susan Dubois, Nick's mother and the outgoing Barcroft PTA president, says the best part is Barcroft's fall and spring intercessions, which are two-week breaks in which parents can choose to take vacations or have their children stick around for extra help or specialty classes like cooking and dance.

The schedule includes a four-week summer break, and a longer vacation around the winter holidays as well.

"It has been an incredible schedule for our kids, for our family and for learning," she says. "I love it and I wish that everyone else would adopt it."

There's another benefit to consider, she adds. For students who graduate from Barcroft, there's no middle school in the county that uses the same calendar, so for many parents, extra sessions at summer camps, or extra childcare costs, for their children add up.

"It definitely can get very pricey very quickly," she says. "And that's one of the reasons I've loved having the year-round schedule because you have a lot less to worry about."

Traditional school year stems from farming culture

The traditional school schedule with its long summer break hails from a time when farming parents needed to have their children for the most time possibly during the harvest season over the summer.

Jennifer Swanston has one son at Barcroft Elementary, and another that graduated from there last year, says the old school calendar no longer makes sense.

"We don't live in an agrarian society anymore," she says. "We don't need this giant block off. But I think a lot of it is fear -- we're just used to it."

Administrators at Barcroft say it makes sense to move away from this agrarian based school calendar. But currently, no school in Arlington is planning to follow Barcroft's model.

Year-round's effect on learning unclear

The verdict on whether extended school years make a difference with student achievement is still out, and that may be why no other school in the county has followed Barcroft's lead.

For her part, Dubois is pessimistic about whether it will happen in Arlington any time soon.

"We've been at the forefront of this for 9 years now, and no other school has expressed a strong interest in taking on this calendar, and no other principal has expressed a strong interest either," she says.

School board members say Barcroft's calendar came from a community initiative, and they're willing to listen other communities who want to give it a try, but so far, none have come forward.

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