CORINTH • Corinth School District Superintendent Dr. Lee Childress spoke to the Mississippi Senate Education Committee on Monday about his district’s modified calendar during an informational hearing about the pros and cons of a year-round school calendar.
The hearing was an opportunity for legislators to learn more about a year-round model, which Corinth refers to as a “modified calendar.”
Despite the name, children are not actually in school year-round in a “year-round” model. The Corinth School District requires the same 180 days of instruction as other districts across the state, but offers opportunities for remediation and enrichment during the weeks off throughout the year.
Dr. Stephen Pruitt, President of the Southern Regional Education Board, a 16-state compact to improve education and the economic vitality of the South, also addressed the committee to discuss how year-round school schedules have been implemented across the country.
He said around 10% of public schools in the United States follow a year-round schedule.
There are several ways to set up a year-round schedule. One is the 45/15 model, where students attend school for 45 days (nine weeks) and then are off for 15 days (three weeks) with holidays and spring break typically staying in the same place.
Other versions of the same system include the 60/20 model, where students attend for 60 days (12 weeks) and then are out of class for 20 days (four weeks); or the 90/30 model, where students attend for 90 days (18 weeks) and they’re off for 30 days (six weeks).
Corinth School District’s modified calendar most closely aligns with the 45/15 model, according to Childress. The district of 2,700 students is currently in its fifth year using the modified calendar.
Childress said implementing the calendar goes back to the district’s vision for its students. The ultimate goal is to focus on student achievement and growth to prepare children for college and career readiness while also focusing on equity, which comes in with the remediation/enrichment “wrap-around services” offered to students who need them during the various breaks throughout the year.
Leading up to the implementation, the district had conversations with the community and local organizations and released a draft model of the calendar two years before the school district implemented it. Corinth School District officials already knew they were heading in the right direction, Childress said, but when teachers said, “This is the right thing to do for our children” it clinched the deal.
The modified calendar gives them the opportunity to provide real-time remediation rather than only offering extra help to students via a summer school or extended school year model.
“Just adding extra days, which we offer during intersession … is not the answer in itself,” Childress said. “If people want to look at this, you can’t just add extra days for children to receive remediation and enrichment. You’ve got to make sure that you do some strategic planning and that you have quality instruction in place.”
Pruitt agreed with Childress’ assessment, saying there’s not a lot of research that shows spreading out the 180 days of required school attendance per year is beneficial.
“Simply spreading it out isn’t what makes the difference for our students,” Pruitt said.
It’s implementing the calendar along with additional support for students during intersessions that seems to make a difference.
In addition to the academic benefits, numerous CSD parents like the calendar because it changes the options for vacation times, dispersing them throughout the year rather than a 10-week block during the summer, Childress said.
CSD has also “been able to navigate the athletics issue,” continuing to participate in sports even when students are out on break.
Childress thinks if the district were to try to switch back to a traditional schedule now, the community would push to keep the existing calendar.
“Our community has embraced the modified calendar,” he said. “We have large numbers of students that are participating in the remediation and enrichment activities and we believe as we move forward to continue to innovate, educate and personalize children’s education, we think that this can be just one part of moving our children to a higher degree of learning.”
Another argument Pruitt shared that is in favor of the year-round schedule is that it can be used to address the summer academic slide, which is the loss of retained knowledge between the end of the spring semester and beginning of the fall semester on a traditional schedule.
It ensures the use of school buildings throughout the year, as they never sit empty during the summer period. Short breaks are also good for student enrichment and remediation, according to Pruitt.
There are also options to put groups of students at a school or district on multiple attendance tracks to reduce the overall number of students at a school at once, which has brought increased attention to the year-round scheduling option during the COVID-19 pandemic, Pruitt said.