Some Mich. kids already in school

Tribune News Service • Jul 21, 2015 at 3:02 PM

A growing number of schools are opting to get a jump start on the school year — a move that may give students an academic advantage.

Classes at this Detroit-area school — one of three in Warren Consolidated Schools that use a year-round calendar — began Aug. 4. That was after just a short, six-week summer vacation.

“The kids are just so happy to be back,” school Principal Cheryl Priemer said.

Michigan law requires schools to wait until after Labor Day to start classes. But a growing number of charter schools and traditional school districts have gotten waivers from the Michigan Department of Education to begin classes early.

Some are operating year-round calendars, where students take more frequent breaks during the school year. In many cases, schools start early because they have an extended school year, meaning students spend more days in school than is typical.

This school year alone, there are 66 waivers, according to the Department of Education. Twenty of them went to charter schools. The remaining went to districts where at least one of their schools starts early.

The total number of waivers is up from 37 in the 2013-14 school year, and just a handful during the 2006-07 school year.

Gov. Rick Snyder has pushed for more funding to encourage schools to switch to year-round calendars, particularly schools that educate large numbers of low-income children. He and others that have pushed schools to consider changes in the calendar have been fueled by research showing students lose a lot of what they learn during long summer breaks.

“There’s evidence out there to show that they can lose much of what they learn because they’re not actively in learning mode,” Snyder said during his State of the State address earlier this year. “In fact, there’s some studies that say you can lose a grade or two by ninth grade if you’re not going on a year-round basis.”

At Holden, students get a two-week break after every 13 weeks. They also have the same time off for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays as other schools on the regular calendar. The summer break is shorter than most; they’re in school a week longer than other schools in the Warren district.

“Most of our students did not experience the summer slide,” Priemer said. “We don’t have to do a month of review.”

The more frequent breaks throughout the year also help, she said.

“All those little breaks, I think, give the children and the staff time to recharge,” Priemer said.

— By Lori Higgins, Detroit Free Press (MCT)

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