School board seeks assessment for its calendar decision

Published 9:44 am Friday, May 9, 2014

By Hannah Dillon, Albert Lea Tribune

An assessment of community needs will be part of the decision-making process for Albert Lea school board members mulling a change to the school calendar.

Community members and stakeholders continue to discuss what’s called a balanced calendar for the Albert Lea Area Schools. A special workshop for discussion was held Monday.

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Superintendent Mike Funk said a balanced calendar divides instructional days and breaks more evenly in comparison to the traditional nine months of instruction and three months of break. The calendar, proposed for the 2015-16 school year, aims to reduce what officials call “summer learning loss,” where students need to catch up to the levels they were at before summer break.

Funk said summer learning loss results in about a month of review at the beginning of each school year.

In a recent stakeholder meeting, the board received input and decided that more research is necessary. They decided to pursue a community needs assessment, a scientific study performed by an external consultant.

This assessment would look at the proposed calendar and give input on whether it is a benefit to the community. The assessment would be conducted during the summer.

The assessment will look at other community needs, too. These could include items such as increasing preschool instruction in the community and reducing classroom sizes in the schools.

“The board is being very deliberate on their approach on this,” Funk said, emphasizing that the board and stakeholders are working to find a good fit for the community.

Previously the community had some issues with the balanced calendar proposal, including possible interference with the Freeborn County Fair and loss of time for students’ summer jobs among others. The calendar proposes starting classes in August. They typically start in September after Labor Day.

The most recent draft of the calendar shows that the first day of classes would start the second week of August to avoid bumping into the 2015 Freeborn County Fair.

Information on what external agency could do the assessment will be discussed at the next school board meeting at 5 p.m. May 19 at the Brookside Education Center.