Future School Year Calendar Feedback

We are looking for feedback from families, staff and the community about our school year calendar for future years.

We hope you’ve had a chance to read about our calendar development process and watch our video. Our survey is open through noon on June 6. Please also feel free to blog with me if you have questions or comments. And, a friendly reminder that we only post comments with a verified first and last name. Thank you and we look forward to hearing from you!

 

Comments (58)

  1. Brynn Beatty

    6 months ago

    I really like the current calendar. As a teacher myself, I understand the need for professional development. I think it’s great that PD is built into the calendar and BSD is less dependent on substitutes. It so nice for teachers to not have to worry about sub plans! What a wonderful gift of time!!!! As a parent, I don’t mind purple Fridays. I like that my kids get a chance to slow down once a month and have a long weekend. I like that they can spend extra time with family and friends. I also appreciate the flexibility of purple Fridays as snow make up days. I don’t mind starting in August or going a bit later in June.

    I have strong concerns for a balanced or year round schedule. I have taught everything between K-8th grade and it seems any break longer than a week or so is really hard on kids (especially ones with challenging home lives). It concerns me to have so many long breaks. I also think so many long breaks would be really hard on parents. It’s not too difficult to trade a day of childcare with a friend or have grandparents fill in on a Friday here and there, but I wonder about finding 3 weeks of childcare 3-4 times a year. Would there be enough programs/community support for this need?

    • Greg

      6 months ago

      hi Brynn, thanks for your feedback. I appreciate your insight on the staff learning/purple Fridays, too – wearing both your parent and teacher “hats.” And I agree that there would be a lot to figure out if our community was enthusiastic about the balanced calendar. We have some fantastic community partners who have adapted their offerings for kids based on our current calendar, including options for kids on Thursday early dismissals, staff learning Fridays, spring break, summer break, etc. It would be a very different model, to be sure, but I also believe that our community would respond in some ways that are thoughtful, helpful and creative. Thanks again for your comment!

  2. Erin Graham

    6 months ago

    I am firmly against a year-round school schedule.

    Given the climate in Bellingham, the summer is finally our time to get outside and revel in the beautiful sun. I cannot imagine our children and teens cooped up in school throughout all of June and July, in exchange for having off late February/early March, and late May.

    There are many unique summer learning opportunities, including camps related to sports, arts, music, robotics, farm camp, etc. that are affiliated with WWU, Fairhaven College, WCC and are only feasible during the traditional summer breaks. That is when faculty, staff, students, and facilities are available (and again, the weather is great for outdoor activities). While you say that our community will be creative in providing new opportunities, I do not believe these opportunities will compare to current offerings.

    I don’t see these 3-week breaks allowing families to vacation at off-peak times. My husband works at WWU, I work at WCC, and these breaks do not line up (with BPS we even have 3 different spring breaks). A lot of parents in this community are tied to the schedules of WWU, WCC, BTC, or surrounding school districts, and they will not be available during these dates.

    I wonder if you could resend the email about this topic, maybe with a subject-line like, “Year-round school calendar?” Some parents I talked to assumed it was an email about minor calendar changes and skipped it because of its length. It’s a busy time of year and I am afraid this issue will get short shrift in spite of it being incredibly impactful upon the lives and wellbeing of Bellingham families.

    I am really happy with many of the changes the district has made in recent years, kudos on all your hard work. I am in favor of keeping the current schedule, I love the new start times for high school, I am thrilled with the new high school schedule allowing more electives, and I am excited about facilities updates.

    I am adamantly against a year-round schedule. The term “balanced schedule” does not give the impression of a school year that extends through the summer months. From a marketing perspective, I understand what you are trying to accomplish, from a transparency perspective, I feel that you’ve fallen uncharacteristically short.

    Given the timing of soliciting feedback for a brief period during the busy end-of-year craziness, the bland subject line, and the lengthy email that doesn’t clearly state that kids would be in school all of June/July, I’m given the distinct impression that the request for feedback is purely for show. I hope that is not the case and that a more thorough and transparent process for listening to the will of the community will be pursued.

    • Greg

      6 months ago

      Hi Erin, thanks for sharing your perspective. I completely understand that the year-round or “balanced” calendar would be a very significant shift for our community, and there would be a lot of challenges to sort out. Many of our employees live outside of Bellingham and may have children in other school districts around Whatcom County, and as you state, many of our families (and spouses/partners of staff) are employed by other institutions that offer summers off. That said, there are many benefits, too, and I hear from a number of families who say our current calendar doesn’t work for them or fit their needs.

      As far as the timing of the message, the subject line and length: it’s a very complex process to develop (and/or change) our school year calendars; it’s part of a very important collaborative process that will start in August 2017 with the Bellingham Education Association. The survey and message aren’t just about the balanced calendar (which by the way is not a marketing term – it’s used by other districts around the country. Some say “year-round” is misleading because it makes is sound like there are no breaks, and this concept would likely include a 6-week summer break). The survey and message are about getting input from as many stakeholders as possible (families, staff, community and students) to help inform all representatives at the bargaining table next school year. This is certainly not “for show,” and I’m very sorry you feel that way. We pride ourselves on public processes and transparency. All of the initiatives you mentioned (new start/end times, high school schedule and facilities projects) were not done in a vacuum, nor were they clean or easy, but I believe processing big ideas, even though it usually brings challenges, is best in the long run.

      I’m happy to talk more about the different calendars or our process – either in person or by phone. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

    • Randall Ragsdale

      6 months ago

      “We would like to ask you for any thoughts you might have to help us as we think through our future calendars.”

      The apparent lack of input from families and students is troubling, and this feedback opportunity is insufficient.

      I urge you to develop a method by which the families impacted by such a drastic change can participate in the generation of a calendar. We’re not working together if there are no parent voices heard in the process.

      If there has been an impact statement generated or an opportunity for families to participate in the generation of the proposed calendar I am not seeing evidence in any of the information shared by you to date.

      • Randall Ragsdale

        6 months ago

        Meant this to be a top level comment. Sorry for subcommenting you, Erin Graham, though I appreciate your feedback. 😉

  3. Tom Beaumont

    6 months ago

    Dr. Baker,
    As the executive director of the Firs (Camp Firwood; Fircreek; After School Adventure) I am concerned about the prospects of a year-round school. We serve over 400 school age children per week in our summer camp programs – a high percentage from our community. We used to offer camps over an eleven week span which dropped to ten weeks and now is at nine. With the “balanced schedule concept” included in your email our summer would be reduced to six weeks with two of those weeks in September where days are shorter and generally cooler. That would mean that a whole lot of kids would not be able to experience a summer camp experience.

    Now I know that this sounds self-serving, but I believe the values represented in our summer programs are shared by many. The need for children to spend time outside, for instance, is crucial. The ‘indoor migration’ taking place in our country with our youth will accelerate greatly with a shortened summer and won’t be compensated by breaks in the darker, colder and wetter months of our year.

    Kids need the sun and the play and the outdoor activities and the change that only the summer provides. Our community has responded well to those needs over the years by providing a wide variety of summer opportunities, in learning environments, for them to enjoy. Let’s not trade those things away for classroom time in July.

    • Greg

      6 months ago

      Tom, thanks for adding your perspective and voice to this conversation. Just to re-iterate, we wouldn’t jump into implementing a balanced calendar without significant processing and vetting with stakeholders, which means working with staff, students, families and community partners, like yours. We presented it because we get asked about it frequently. As superintendent, I visited every PTA meeting and every school staff meeting this year, and this was a question I am often asked about.

      And I definitely appreciate the importance of having our kids be outdoors! Thanks again for the feedback.

  4. Anna Blick

    6 months ago

    Dr. Baker,
    I echo many of the concerns raised by others regarding the year-round schedule. My partner and I are both full-time professionals in higher education, and the proposed year-round schedule would leave us with a plethora of logistical challenges throughout the year. We would be paying for private childcare across many different pockets of the year, not just during summer. Our daughter, who thrives on the consistency of the classroom environment and becomes bored as it is during a regular winter or spring break, would surely experience adjustment issues. The summer weather in Bellingham is, as others have mentioned, a seasonal delight that simply does not compare with other times of the year in terms of opportunities for recreation and quality family time outdoors. I do support the changes to start times, and I am happy to accommodate Purple Fridays. That being said, I find the rationale for the proposed year-round schedule to be lacking thorough justification, and I question the timing of this review period, given that teachers, families, and kids are busy with and distracted by end of year activities. If it is the case that the decision has already been made, and the request for feedback created as a PR strategy, I sincerely hope a move toward a year-round schedule would be properly vetted and pursued at least in concert with other districts in the region.
    Thank you.

    • Greg

      6 months ago

      Thanks, Anna. I agree there would be many logistical challenges associated with the year-round schedule, and I certainly understand your point about weather and time spent outdoors. It’s important that our community knows that going to a balanced calendar wouldn’t be something we’d just turn around and implement. We decided to include it in the survey and calendar message because I get asked about it so frequently. We wanted to find out if folks would be supportive of exploring the idea, and to your point, we would need to do a lot more processing and vetting if the survey shows that support. Thanks again for your comment, and thanks for your support of the new start times and Purple Fridays!

  5. Kari Young

    6 months ago

    If I lived in California or Arizona, I might consider a year round calendar. Unfortunately, as others have already pointed out, moving a large portion of the student’s weeks off to the late fall and winter months will equal less time outside for our kids which is completely unacceptable in the gray rainy PNW.

    Your argument about it being easier to schedule vacations during the off season is great if you can afford to ski regularly or fly to hawaii in the winter, but for the majority of us, these breaks will mean time spent inside.

    We cherish having ample time to pursue hiking, biking, boating and swimming during our warmest months, please do not take this away.

    • Greg

      6 months ago

      hi Kari, thanks for your comment. Our intent was to share three differing takes on a school-year calendar, not really make an “argument” for one over the other, rather present pros and cons of each. Based on the feedback from the survey (and a number of emails I have received and blog comments), we’ll know whether there is any value in exploring the year-round calendar (or how people feel about Staff Learning Fridays, pre-Labor Day start, etc.). I agree that time outdoors is very important – for our students and families, too. Thanks again for sharing your perspective.

  6. Sue Duggal

    6 months ago

    Dear Dr. Baker,

    I ended up having multiple lengthy comments, so I have divided them up into three separate parts which will follow. Feel free to comment back or not; I just want these comments to be on the record and available for others to read and perhaps use as a launching point for their own thoughts and insights on this important subject matter.

    Sincerely,
    Sue Duggal

    • Greg

      6 months ago

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts, Sue! I’ll try to respond to each one individually

  7. Sue Duggal

    6 months ago

    I have noticed a nation-wide trend in recent years towards an early August school start date. Given that the timing of Winter Break is highly unlikely to change, the idea of an early August school start date makes a whole lot of sense because the school year could be divided more evenly in half with Winter Break at the midpoint. If the end of first semester occurred immediately before Winter Break, then our high school students could actually enjoy their time off rather than worrying about having finals when they return to school in January. Also, with the school year divided more evenly in half, late April through June wouldn’t feel like such a tough slog like it does now. From remembrances of my own childhood school days, I distinctly recall beginning to tune out by the end of May. A whole generation later, my own student and her peers don’t seem any different in this regard. I think the school calendar in its current form is the most ideal version of the three options presented, but if the start date was moved to earlier in August with a corresponding end date in late May or very early June, the current school calendar could be significantly improved and could ultimately have a very positive impact on overall student learning and engagement over the course of the entire school year.

    • Greg

      6 months ago

      Interesting idea – I enjoy hearing “hybrid” ideas that take a little from each scenario, too. Thanks, Sue!

  8. Sue Duggal

    6 months ago

    With regards to school starting prior to Labor Day, the recent joint email communication from BPS and the BEA states:

    The main reason we have been starting before Labor Day is that with Staff Learning Days, the school year gets extended, and families and staff want to get out as early in June as possible. Another reason is that it helps front load more quality instructional time in August and September for our students, similar to their peers across the country.

    Given this, it seems absurdly contradictory to now be proposing a school calendar which essentially has a school start date in the latter half of September, a full 2 weeks after Labor Day. I understand that technically the “start” date is listed as June 4, but it seems abundantly irrational to have 6 weeks of Summer Break from the beginning of August to mid-September after just 9 weeks into the “new” school year. How well would most students really be able to learn in July, the hottest month of the year in our climate, then retain that information for the second half of first semester after 6 weeks of Summer Break in August/September? Additionally, the on-again/off-again nature of the proposed “balanced” school year with 9 weeks of school followed by 3-6 weeks of vacation multiple times throughout the year would be too disruptive for the continuity of good learning

    • Greg

      6 months ago

      Hi Sue, I understand your critique. Some districts that do the year-round or balanced calendar end their school years in May shortly after AP tests are given. The scenario published in the future calendar message is just a starting point. If it seemed like our community wanted us to seriously explore going to a balanced model, there would be chance for a lot of feedback about when and how to implement the calendar, what months/weeks to have off, etc.

  9. Sue Duggal

    6 months ago

    As previous commenters have already passionately pointed out, many fantastic summer camps and other programs tend to be scheduled from the final weeks of June to the early days of August. Under the proposed school calendar, students in our district would completely miss out on these types of amazing opportunities. For older students, summer jobs during the high school years can be an important entry point into the job market, as well as an opportunity to learn marketable skills and even save some money for college. I can’t imagine many employers would be enthusiastic about hiring students for 3-6 weeks at a time. A worthwhile Summer Break that would allow for ample family vacation time, just regular old downtime, as well as an opportunity for students to participate in other kinds of valuable learning and recreational experiences should be at least 8 weeks, but 10 weeks would be more ideal. Also, in terms of travel and family vacations during Summer Break, June tends to be a much more comfortable month for travel compared to August which can tend to be too hot and too humid in many places across the US and major travel destinations abroad. As a final point, I would like to add that the new scheme would be patently unfair to student athletes, coaches (who are usually also school teachers), and their respective families since sports scheduling would very likely conflict with the proposed 3-6-week vacation periods, thus not allowing these hardworking and dedicated individuals and their families to have very much real vacation time at all.

    • Greg

      6 months ago

      Hi again. Summer jobs and athletics are some of the biggest complexities with the balanced/year-round calendar idea. Again, this is not something we’re proposing – we wanted to float this idea to our community for feedback and input. As I said in a previous response, I get asked about it a lot, so we thought it was worth asking our students, staff and families what they thought.

  10. Linda Melland

    6 months ago

    Dear Dr. Baker,

    I believe in a year long calendar for many reasons you have cited. However, I think you will have a tough sell based on the calendar you give as an example, which is very disjointed.

    Thus far, you and the Bellingham School District staffs have done a remarkable job of transforming the quality of education in our city. If one really would like to transform the calendar to better serve children, I would like to suggest a 4-day, Tuesday through Friday school week. This model would create 45 school weeks, leaving seven weeks to be split, say, 2 weeks during winter, and the other weeks distributed however works best. While this may sound like a radical idea compared to the current discussion, I believe there is a workaround for every concern.

    Why might this work for our community? The vast majority of parents cannot afford the enriching summer activities that are cherished by many, nor can they afford a marathon day care expense during the summer months. However, they might more easily find they can cope and schedule around a more consistent weekly school calendar. I believe that providers of camps and enrichments for children will develop other meaningful activities for students on Mondays and other times.

    The obvious concern is the traditional view of vacation times. In reality, parents who want to travel already pull students out of school during school days. Teachers and other staffs who want to travel to special events already receive special permission to be away during contracted school days.

    We tend to worry about employees who have children in other school districts and matching schedules, but in reality, we already allow those employees to bring their children to our school district with them. We tend to worry about summer as prime time, but in reality, the most consistently warm and dry weather is in August and September, not June and July. With guaranteed 3 day weekends there would be many opportunities for families to take mini breaks.

    I can think of several other concerns that may be brought up with this type of calendar, but I can also see a logical solution for them. I won’t list them for brevity sake.

    My big idea is, if you are going to change the calendar to benefit children, then do it right, even if it is a radical change.

    Wishing you and the community all the best, whatever you decide.

    • Randall Ragsdale

      6 months ago

      “My big idea is, if you are going to change the calendar to benefit children, then do it right, even if it is a radical change. ”

      This pretty much says it all.

    • Sue Duggal

      6 months ago

      Average maximum daily temperatures based on the last 10 years:

      June 67 degrees F
      July 73 degrees F
      August 73 degrees F
      September 68 degrees F

      Average monthly precipitation based on the last 10 years:

      June 1.49 inches
      July 0.72 inches
      August 0.96 inches
      September 2.05 inches

      All information is from Weather Underground

    • Greg

      6 months ago

      Hi Linda, thanks for the very unique idea! I love out-of-the-box suggestions and appreciate you taking the time to comment. We absolutely want to do what is best for kids. And at the same time, the school year calendar is impactful to many people – our students, families, staff and community, so we need to be mindful of many perspectives and open to process and input. It’s easy to say “let’s do this!” but it’s rare that we take that approach on something as significant as the calendar.

      • Linda Melland

        6 months ago

        Thank you for your reply. I hope you didn’t think I would expect the district to make a unilateral decision? The survey didn’t give any choices that I thought would truly affect student learning, so my response in your blog was meant to be a viable option that could be considered. It would take a lot of communication and feedback from stakeholders to pull off something like my idea.

  11. Karen Benson

    6 months ago

    I strongly oppose a year-long calendar (and let’s just call it what it is) for many reasons. It seems to me that the change would wreak havoc in many ways with no true or guaranteed benefit. Here are some of the reasons I oppose this: First, I grew up in an area where we had to cancel schools in June and September because of heat — and we already had air-conditioning (which sometime did not function). Bellingham may be more temperate but you may still miss days because of this. The older schools here would need to retro-fitted for AC and you would be spending extra money on running the AC – not a good use of money. Second, kids use that summertime to learn to swim – not just for pleasure but for developing life-long necessary safety skills. Third, we encourage our kids to be active and healthy but this would take away the time of year when they could actually do just that. Three-week breaks in fall, winter and spring mean indoor activities and potentially more screen time and at the very least, less exercise: not good for their overall health and lifestyle. Fourth, many high school students rely on summer jobs for income and savings and they would no longer have the opportunity to hold a summer job. Fifth, graduating seniors heading to college would have approximately a two week transition before graduating in early August and then heading to college in mid-August. Sixth, the studies that children retain or learn more are simply incomplete and mixed. With so many people opposed and no conclusive evidence, let’s not wreak havoc on the students, teachers, and families but instead find ways to support them throughout the year. Our family specifically chose not to move to one community that had year-round school and I’m disheartened to think after settling in Bellingham that this idea is being floated. The school district has been wonderful in many areas but let’s continue to work within the framework we have to improve and not throw everyone into disarray, especially based on evidence that seems incomplete and mixed.

    • Greg

      6 months ago

      hi Karen, thanks for your comments. As I have said in other responses to commenters, the year-round calendar isn’t being pursued or proposed at this time, but it’s still great to get your feedback. For every person who says they strongly oppose it (and has great reasons/rationale, as you do), there are others right behind them who want to tout the benefits. But again, we put it out there to get feedback – so your input is much appreciated!

  12. Tom Goetzl

    6 months ago

    Greg:

    I appreciate how difficult it is for your office to accommodate all the disparate agendas with which you are confronted. Thank you for this opportunity to provide feedback. I fear the feedback you receive will disproportionately represent the interests of more privileged families and provide less input from working class families.

    I enthusiastically embrace the consideration of a “year-round” academic calendar. Our current model was not conceived to provide children with an overlong, extended summer vacation. Rather, it began as an accommodation to the needs of an agricultural economy for children to assist in the hard work of bringing crops to harvest on family farms. This is not the world our children inhabit today. It is well understood that the academic idleness of most children over the almost three months of summer “vacation” results in the need for extended “catch-up” time upon their return to the classroom in the fall. Precious time is then wasted.

    Furthermore, at a time when children need to learn ever more skills to enable them successfully to navigate an increasingly complex world, perhaps it’s also time to think seriously about extending academic instruction beyond the minimum 180-day current requirement. Surely, not simply to fill more time with “busy work,” but rather to make available more time for learning to speak and write in a foreign language, for delving more deeply into critical thinking, for mastering cursive writing, for more fun, physical exercise, i.e., intramural sports, for understanding better health and nutrition practices, for better exploring their mechanical, musical, and artistic aptitudes, etc.

    An important mission of the school system should be the preparation of our children for engagement in civic affairs. It is frankly appalling how few young adults even bother to vote. Even worse is how poorly informed they are about American history and its impact on issues that continue to plague our society. Clearly, they have not been impressed with their responsibility to be active and informed citizens. The paucity of their knowledge of world affairs and geography, compared to that of their counterparts abroad, is embarrassing.

    The academic schedule of our public schools ought not to be driven by the vacation/travel desires of those families who can afford such luxuries. They will always find a way for their foreign holidays. The vast majority of families struggle to make ends meet as the gulf between haves and have-nots grows ever wider, even here in Bellingham. There are far more children whose parents are grateful for a two-week vacation than there are with parents who enjoy summers off because of their own academic schedules. If we really aspire to afford all children an opportunity to live productive lives and to escape the downward mobility that is unfortunately becoming part of the American experience, we have much hard work in front of us.

    Please let me know how I might be of further assistance.

    • Sue Duggal

      6 months ago

      Many middle-class families also enjoy travel and vacation time, not just the “privileged academics”. Our own family’s preferred summertime destinations include Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia.

    • Greg

      6 months ago

      hi Tom, thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. I do have concerns about the summer lag that occurs for some students, especially those without means, and a year-round calendar would help address some of the “academic idleness.”

      There are some good reasons to consider extending our school year beyond the 180-day model, but the biggest obstacle is funding. We can’t even get adequate funding from the state for our current calendar (much less for additional days, staff time, etc.). Thanks again for sharing your perspective.

  13. Steve Chronister

    6 months ago

    Dr. Baker,
    I strongly oppose a year-round or a so called “balanced” schedule. It may be “balanced” but that doesn’t mean it makes sense to me from an educational or a quality of life standpoint. Everyone I know in the teaching profession notices that many students go into “vacation mode” a couple of days before every break and often are still in it when they come back. Also, parents are increasingly taking their children out of school a day early and bringing them back a day late before and after vacations and such a schedule would only add to that. The many breaks in the schedule would also seriously affect after school activities as some students would increasingly have “somewhere else they need to be” and the ones who are very committed to their team or group and won’t leave during the season would have fewer days in the year when they are completely “off”, as WIAA schedules would require them to be practicing and performing through their breaks, followed by increased summer class time. It would also make it harder for students to hold down summer jobs, and many depend on that. And, of course, as was stated by many others, our summer weather in Bellingham is often “nearly perfect”, an amazing time to have time off, as opposed to other times of the year when our weather is much more bleak.

    • Greg

      6 months ago

      hi Steve, thanks for the comment and sorry I missed this comment over the weekend. As you may have read, I sent out an update regarding the calendar on Tuesday to assure our community we weren’t actively pursuing the year-round model. Although it has its strong points, I don’t think it’s feasible for a number of reasons, including student employment opportunities over the summer and complications with athletics. Thanks for adding your voice to this discussion.

  14. Heidi Bode

    6 months ago

    I do not agree with the year-round schedule for many of the reasons, some of which include, but are not limited to:
    1. My teenage son was hoping to work to start saving for college during the summer.
    2. The constant change in routine can be difficult for children.
    3. I value the time for unstructured play.
    4. Our family isn’t going to necessarily benefit from “improving scheduling /cost of travel”, as our family time is mainly camping, barbecuing and taking part in other outdoor summer activities.
    5. Summers are often the time to maintain connections with family that do not live in Whatcom county. The non-traditional schedule will be difficult to maintain relationships.

    Though I realize that much of these concerns are personal and you need to take in the needs of all Whatcom families. Everyone has a different perspective on this (though I do not believe they are divided in the haves and have nots).

    I understand you are coming from an academic perspective. When I read many of your benefits of changing the calendar, it would seems that ideally we should have school all year round without breaks. Though it cannot be only about academics. We need to look at the total child. So I have a better understanding, as I realize this is only in the discussion phase of the process, could you clarify some issues I have:

    1. You have a survey without giving us any data about what the specific problem is. What are you doing now to resolve it and how is your current plan not working? This is a big change and it is not clear the problem or if this is the best solution. How can there be a discussion without more information?
    2. Will you have a quantifiable goal for the year-long plan?
    3. Will the goal include the total child, not just academics? How will you measure these goals?
    4. What other districts have taken part in the year-round schedule and what sort of data do they have about their programs?
    5. If you put your plan in place and it does not show improvements in the total child, will you stay with the year-round schedule or will you go back to the more tradition calendar year that we have now?
    6. What are the costs to changing the calendar back and forth, especially if the year round schedule does not prove to be beneficial?

    So far, I haven’t seen anything that gives me confidence that this change will be better for the child. The constant changes in schedule effects all families. Before there are surveys and a discussion, we need way more information.

    • Greg

      6 months ago

      Hi Heidi, thanks for sharing your perspective and for asking some clarifying questions. We are entering the fourth year of our current calendar and it seemed like a good time to ask the question if this current calendar is working for staff, families, students and our community. At this time we are not proposing the year-round calendar, just sharing what it could look like for our district to answer the question some families and staff have asked. You are correct, before moving forward with a big change like this there would be much more discussion, information and opportunities for feedback. Thanks for your input!

  15. Brian Pearson

    6 months ago

    We have way too many near or below poverty families in our area that any balanced or year-round schedule change will have a negative impact upon. For some of these families, changing their family schedule is nearly impossible.
    Shuffling these families lives up to adjust the school calendar that was decided by zero people in their situation is unconscionable. Studies have shown that a year round schedule does not have a large enough scholastic positive effect to mitigate the dramatic negative change that this would have on families. Please take these things into consideration before making any major changes to our school calendars. As we all have heard time and time again…community comes first.

    • Greg

      6 months ago

      Hi Brian, thanks for taking the time to comment. As I have said in other responses to commenters, the year-round calendar isn’t being pursued or proposed at this time, we are simply sharing what it could look like for us. Before making any big system change we would spend time meeting and communicating with families, students, staff and the community to gather feedback. The year-round calendar has strong supporters both for and against it, and I listen to and consider all of the feedback. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  16. Shelley Woods

    6 months ago

    Summer is the only season the kids have to enjoy their lives outdoor. Summer break has already been shortened to the point of being ridiculous. Also, parents will have to shuffle and scrounge to get childcare to cover these times. Personally, I feel the school district should work on fixing what ‘is’ broken, rather than what is not.
    Thank you for the opportunity to give input!

  17. Paul Horja

    6 months ago

    Summer break is a time for traveling and the outdoors, but also for learning by seriously pursuing individual activities and interests. There are lots of summer opportunities available for specialized activities like coding, sports, music, foreign languages, math, etc. The year-round calendar will inevitably require lots of waivers for such activities.

    • Greg

      6 months ago

      Thank you Shelley and Paula, I agree summer is a great opportunity for our kids to get out and explore beautiful Bellingham! And yes, there would be many things to consider and discuss if we chose to continue to pursue the idea of a year-round calendar. Thank you for sharing your perspectives.

  18. John Myers

    6 months ago

    Dr. Baker – It is obvious that the mass majority of people are adamantly against year-round school. I am just hearing about this now and when I talk to other students’ parents they are surprised they have not heard of this discussion and are outraged that this is even being considered. It seems like this topic has been intentionally not very well publicized? I hope this is not a tactic to try and quietly push such a radical far reaching measure through down the road. To me this would be very self-serving for your office and not forthright or acting in the public’s best interest. Dr. Baker you are very effective in getting what you want done, which is admirable and necessary at times. I do also understand that it would make things much easier for your office with budgets, teacher training and future union negotiations. Pushing this through without due process would be grossly dishonest and negligent and would be a complete disservice to the community and the tax payers who compensate you incredibly well. It is clear from your rebuttals that you are strongly pushing for year-round school. I hope you will address and publish this comment and give this subject the visibility it deserves as it will adversely affect so many people that you are paid to serve.

    • Greg

      6 months ago

      Hi John, as I have said to several other commenters, the year-round calendar isn’t being pursued or proposed at this time. At PTA and staff meetings, people have asked what a year-round or balanced calendar might look like for us, so we are simply addressing this question. As with any big system change we would follow a thorough process of gathering feedback from staff, families, students and the community.

      I disagree that we’re trying to “quietly push” any specific agenda. We shared this message and survey out to all our district families and staff, via Facebook and our website to try and get as much feedback as possible. While many of the comments on the blog are concerned about the year-round calendar, the survey feedback is mixed. It is my job to consider and listen to all feedback, and I look forward to sharing out the results of our survey soon. Again, the message and survey centered around consideration of three different calendar scenarios (not just the year-round model). I appreciate you taking the time to post on the blog.

      • Mike Wheeler

        6 months ago

        John Myers, I agree with you. This is how our current schedule was approached. A simple survey. I didn’t respond. My mistake. I didn’t think Dr. Baker was serious about changing the start and stop dates of the school year. Lets keep it honest. It makes a good example.

      • Mike Wheeler

        6 months ago

        I agree with you. Are current school schedule is a result of a simple request for input. Which I and many other parents didn’t respond to. I didn’t think they were really going to pursue it. My mistake. This time I did respond. It’s a good thing I received and read the e-mail just in time. We should have at least 5 working days to respond all surveys. Not a weekend and Monday night. I wonder how many people didn’t see their e-mail until it was too late? Survey closed.

        • Greg

          6 months ago

          Mike, thanks for commenting and I hope you see this is just another opportunity to families to provide their thoughts and feedback. In regards to the survey, it was shared out on May 30, giving everyone a full week before it closed. Also, if you didn’t see my message yesterday, you can view it here: http://bellinghamschools.org/news/thank-calendar-feedback/ . I give more context to our current thinking and next steps. I’d also say that engagement and feedback can happen anytime – not just on a survey (or a blog). I want the community to know they can email me anytime with questions, wonders, concerns or reflections. Sorry for the frustration, and thanks for the input on timeline and process.

  19. CJ Fisher

    6 months ago

    Hello,

    I’d like to add a couple of requests to the discussion:

    1) Please make the survey data public. I know that you have said, “While many of the comments on the blog are concerned about the year-round calendar, the survey feedback is mixed. It is my job to consider and listen to all feedback, and I look forward to sharing out the results of our survey soon.” In order to build trust for this process rather than distrust and misconceptions, this transparent information is vital. We don’t want a “show us your taxes” moment here.

    2) Please continue to survey all stakeholders and communicate widely with a longer timeframe. If we can communicate to all families about school closures due to inclement weather, I would want a similar ask of all families. I would also like to see the district engage with all families — those without tech access and who speak multiple languages.

    3) Please provide case studies of school districts that have embarked upon this year-round calendar — what worked? what didn’t? Why did some of them abandon the year-round calendar and go back to traditional ones?

    4) Please provide research based articles that showcase the pros of year-round schooling. How does it affect student learning? How does a calendar change create better learning effects than smaller class sizes, providing reading materials to all of our students in poverty during breaks and mentoring programs like Beats at Shuksan?

    5) Please provide teachers/staff with data and a “heads up!” Many teachers and staff were caught off guard and found it tricky to answer the questions of the community.

    6) Please do not pioneer this calendar shift in our region. Please partner with Whatcom and Skagit county school districts (all state?) in making such a drastic change. We don’t have to be first — let’s learn from and with others.

    7) Please help families find quality, affordable after-school care. In a family with 2 full-time teachers, I’m having difficulty finding care for my elementary boys with a new start/end times. No longer can I rely on high school kids to help fill in some of those gaps.

    Phew — that’s it for now! I hope you will continue to seek out and respond to the concerns of everyone. I’m looking forward to also hearing from those who are adamantly in favor of year-round school

    • Julie Dugger

      6 months ago

      I would also like to see the survey data made public. The word pictures in the “brief summary,” while pretty, are not informative. Of course a lot of people used the word “school.” What did they say about it?

    • Greg

      6 months ago

      Hi CJ and Julie, I think most of the questions you have can be answered in the message I sent yesterday, you can view it here: http://bellinghamschools.org/news/thank-calendar-feedback/. As you’ll see the year-round calendar is not something we are actively pursuing. We included some brief information from the survey in my message yesterday. With the volume of responses it will take us time to process all the feedback, which translated into almost 300 pages of comments and questions! Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  20. Tom Goetzl

    6 months ago

    Greg:

    As a parent interested in enhancing the academic opportunities for all our children, and therefore supportive of a year-round curriculum, let me offer a couple further thoughts.

    1. With regard to those other respondents who have pointed out how pleasant our summer weather is, let it be observed that the educational experience provided by our public schools need not be entirely obtained within the classroom, i.e., indoors. During the warmer months, there is no reason why our children could not be engaged in out-of-door field trips and adventures learning about science, botany, biology, and their environment as well as developing other skills, like keen observation and teamwork, etc. No doubt many children do in fact enjoy such experiences during the summer, but not all parents can afford the increasingly steep fees associated with those camps and classes. Robert Putnam’s Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis argues that (1) all of our children deserve these “enriched” experiences and (2) we all pay a huge price when they are denied that experience.

    2. I understand that a longer academic calendar would require additional funding. All of us – parents and school administrators – should be pushing our state legislators much, much harder to go beyond McCleary and really fully fund the excellent educational opportunities all of our children need and deserve. Persuading the public, especially parents, to support the additional taxes that would require should include no-so-gentle reminders of the costs borne both by parents and the public for children when they are NOT in school. The expenses of those summer camps and pay-to-play activities and the costs of childcare during the summer could be substantially reduced if not eliminated. And summer latch-key kids would be far less likely to get into mischief which can impose its own public costs.

    3. As part of the research to be done while considering the benefits of maintaining a long summer break, it would be useful to ascertain how many families do, in fact, take vacations, and for how long. I suspect that many of us in the “middle-class” would be surprised to learn how tight the budgets for many of our fellow Bellingham families are. Families whose children rely of free or reduced lunches (and there are many of them!) are probably not taking many vacations. And, please keep in mind, that even with an extended school year there are still ample “vacation” breaks available to all.

    • Mike Wheeler

      6 months ago

      Vacations can be free. Its about balance. And fun. It’s all important. I’m pleased with my daughters GPA, and my sons recent graduation from Western. All achieved with summers off.
      We should follow Finland’s example.

    • Greg

      6 months ago

      Thanks for your comment Tom. You raise some good points, especially the need for our state to fully fund education. And I’m so glad you referenced Putnam’s book! Our entire leadership team, which includes all of our principals and administrators, read that book this school year. Thanks again, Tom, for your continued interest and engagement.

  21. Krista Koch

    6 months ago

    Dr. Baker.

    I am in full support of a balanced calendar/year round curriculum for our children. I feel strongly that the direction our community should head in should be one that is based on research, what is in the best academic interest of our children, and be led by the professionals (ie. State & District officials, Teachers) with the expertise in this area.

    I am a working parent as is my husband, and the worries that surround child care are present regardless of whether the school is year round or as it currently is. The organizations in our community who provide Spring Break, Winter Break and Summer Break Camps provide these opportunities based on the school calendar, and would no doubt continue to do so if our calendar changed.

    I would like to see this as a topic of immediate discussion rather than “tabling it” because our community doesn’t appear to be ready for it. I am guessing there is a significant portion of the community that is ready for it or would be willing to consider it if there was significant research presented as to how and why it would benefit our children.

    • Greg

      6 months ago

      Hi Krista, thank you for sharing the reasons why you support a year-round calendar. At this time, there are many factors that would need to come together for us to continue a discussion about a year-round calendar, and one of those factors is community support.

  22. Sarah Neyman

    6 months ago

    I am not for or against a balanced or year-round schedule. I see difficulties around summer camp and traditional activities, but might a new schedule not open up opportunities for a different kind of outdoor learning during winter months?
    One thing I do know is that a significant portion of our school children count on us for two meals a day, and summertime is a long, uncertain stretch for many families. For these families as well, summer isn’t necessarily a time for vacation or perhaps even playing outside. For many of them it means longer child care hours.
    I would encourage more research into best practice for how people learn, as well as how schedules are affected for at-risk populations; partnering with organizations like Whatcom Dream that represent communities that have less access to technology to answer surveys.
    Thank you for the opportunity to give feedback, and your transparency while considering options.

    • Greg

      6 months ago

      Hi Sarah, thank you for your comment. These are important things to consider and I agree that we should continue to research best practices for how students learn.

  23. Mike Doyle

    5 months ago

    I don’t have “normal” color vision. The current calendar is a real challenge to use. Would it be possible to use shapes, as well as colors, to identify the special days?

    • Greg

      5 months ago

      Hi Mike, Thanks for the great feedback – we’d be happy to incorporate that idea for next year’s school calendar (and in the future), and this is right in line with all of the work we have done and continue to do to improve accessibility on our website. Thanks again for the idea!

  24. Rose Faren

    4 months ago

    I hope you will consider having a start date that is *after* Labor Day. The current schedule poses a challenge to those with family outside of Whatcom County, who would like to schedule summer visits with cousins. It seems that most of the counties south of here have a start date that is the Wednesday *after* Labor Day.

    The same problem exists with April break. In fact, it is even *more* of a problem, since at least in the summer, visits can be scheduled during different weeks. When April break doesn’t align with the rest of the Puget Sound, April vacation visits with cousins in other counties, let alone in the rest of the country (second week of April is a common spring break time).

    What I’ve noticed looking at, say, the Seattle Public Schools schedule is that starting after Labor Day doesn’t make the kids have to go to school much later in June. They seem to get out roughly the same time.

    The real problem is the monthly Fridays off. Our kids are having to go back to school in August so that these teacher service days can happen on Fridays throughout the year. Other schools front load those days in August and let the kids relax and enjoy the summer until September.

    I hope in the future Bellingham will move to a start date that is *after* Labor Day…and that we’ll move our April break to be when the rest of the Puget Sound has their spring breaks.

  25. Greg

    4 months ago

    Hi Rose, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    We asked families in May to weigh in on if they preferred school to start before or after Labor Day. You’re not alone in your thinking, but the survey results are mixed. You can see a summary of our survey results here (http://bellinghamschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Calendar-Survey-and-Feedback-Analysis.pdf). This feedback will help inform future calendar development.

    You are correct that other districts that start after Labor Day may end in the middle of June, but they do this by increasing early dismissal days during the school year, pulling teachers out more often during the school and using substitutes, and/or by reducing the number of days students go to school. This video helps explain. https://bellingham.wistia.com/medias/soeisctyhc

    Over the years we have made adjustments to the school year calendar to increase instructional time for students, increase support to our teachers and decrease our need for substitutes.

    After hearing your concerns about spring break, I looked at the school calendars for school districts in our area including Ferndale, Mount Baker, Meridian, Lynden and Blaine. All of these districts share the first week of April as the week of spring break. While it may be popular to be the second week of April in the Puget Sound area, we do align with our neighboring districts.

    I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Have a great rest of your summer!

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