COUSHATTA, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Schools in Red River parish will be switching to a year-round calendar this year, part of an effort to ease some of the losses to students’ academic progress during the long break from the classroom due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The traditional academic calendar with nine months of school and a three-month break in the summer was originally designed to follow early America’s agricultural industry, which demanded children work on the family farm over the summer. It also gave children a break from sweltering classrooms at the height of the summer when air conditioning was not quite as ubiquitous as it is today.
The Red River Parish School Board Tuesday afternoon unanimously approved a plan to have nine weeks of instruction year-round, with periodic two-week breaks. The district originally had an August 8 start date. Now, it will reopen school for the year on August 31 with in-person instruction Monday through Thursday and virtual instruction on Fridays.
“This is a year round model of instruction that has been looked at by research for a long period of time,” Superintendent Alison Hughes explained at a recent meeting with parents and teachers explaining the proposed plan. “It’s been proven to be very, very beneficial for kids. Especially for kids that tend to regress when you send them home for the summer. This model is perfect for that.”
It is an idea that also has some enthusiastic support from the state’s top education leader. In a letter to Hughes, newly installed State Superintendent Dr. Cade Brumley commended the district’s efforts to introduce the year-round calendar.
“As you well know, students are negatively impacted by summer learning loss each year – this is further problematic in our most impoverished communities. I can only assume – although I can’t yet confirm – we will see significant learning loss in students as our buildings have been closed since March. Your approach to reduce the long periods without instruction (ie: long summer breaks) is a great idea. I’m glad to see this and believe your children (and staff) will benefit from this balanced calendar.”
Brumley also said Red River’s move could become an example for other school systems across the state.
“Please let my office know if we can assist in any way. We will be watching this approach in Red River and it might prove as a model for other systems throughout the state if done well.”
On a year-round schedule, also known as a balanced calendar, students attend the same number of days as other schools and teachers have the same amount of professional development days to prepare for classes.
Shreve Island Elementary is currently the only school in Northwest Louisiana with year-round school. The school touts the benefits of a calendar that “keeps students and teachers fresh and energized during the year and also reduces the effects of summer learning loss. Parents also enjoy planning vacations during Fall and Spring Intersessions when the weather is more enjoyable and destinations less crowded.”