SPECIAL REPORT: Looking at traditional vs. continuous learning calendar schools

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — Wife and mother of two Fayetteville Public School students, SaeJen Freeman, said she got a bit of a surprise when her family moved from to Fayetteville from Springdale.

“When I enrolled Jackson, my youngest, my 10-year-old into Happy Hollow, I was not aware of the continuing calendar,” Freeman said.

While all Fayetteville schools start on the same day in the fall, Happy Hollow, Owl Creek, and Asbell Elementary Schools are all continuous learning schools.

When compared to traditional calendar schools, all students in the district are in school for eight hours and are scheduled for 178 days.

However, continuous learning schools get a week-long break at the beginning of October and the end of April while traditional calendar students are still in school.

At the end of the year, CLC students make up for that time when they end the school year two weeks after traditional calendar students.

“What we look at is the number of days students have and how much time it would take to teach what Arkansas says is a third-grade standard,” said Dr. Steven Weber, associate superintendent of teaching and learning for the district. “When you analyze that, you can do it through both calendars.”

Fayetteville public school administrators said there are benefits to having the extra time off during the year.

“There’s a lot of research that says students need those breaks for play, family time, enrichment,” Weber said. “Families can take their children to the public library, take their children on vacation.”

The more frequent breaks can be inconvenient for some families, including the Freemans.

“The reality is some families don’t have the extra income to go on vacation every time there’s a break,” Weber said. “So they are having to hire childcare, or find a Boys and Girls club or pay a local facility to watch their children.”

“During that week, since me and my husband both work during the day, I would have to find somewhere for him to go,” Freeman said. “He’s just 10 years old. He’s not old enough to stay at home.”

Luckily, she’s able to send her kid to a camp provided by Happy Hallow.

“My other child, he’s in school that week, so it wouldn’t be really fair to him if I took a vacation,” Freeman said.

“I’ve had some opportunities to take, not long vacations, but some extended weekends,” said the principal of Asbell Elementary School, Tracy Bratton.

Bratton has worked in education for over 20 years. With experience using both calendars under her belt, she said staff also enjoy the breaks a continuous learning calendar provides. But there are drawbacks.

“Some of the staff point to the fact that they also would like a longer summer. So again there’s some pros and cons to that,” Bratton said.

Students on a traditional calendar get out of school two weeks earlier than CLC students.

“When we’re going into June, a lot of camps start, international families have gotten out of their classes and they’re ready to go home for an extended summer break,” Bratton said. “So it can affect our attendance.”

Bratton said this can slightly impact the school’s scores that are given to the public.

Overall, Freeman said she’s happy with both of her son’s schools, but would ultimately like for them to be on the same schedule.

“For right now, we’re making it work so as long as I can continue it working, then I don’t have an issue with either or,” Freeman said.

Doctor Weber said the district calendar committee decided to move forward with the current calendars for the next couple of years. However, administrators and the school board are analyzing the pros and cons for the future.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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