HOPEWELL – Thirty-nine days. For Hopewell Public Schools, it’s the time lapse between the story.
On June 17, the school bell rings for the last time. On July 26 – 39 days later – the school bell will ring for the first time in Virginia’s only public school system to go all-in on the balanced schedule.
The layman term for this is “school all year round”.
“We will not let this fail”:Hopewell approves move to year-round schools
If the last 14 months had been like any other time in Virginia, instead of talking about launching the Balanced Calendar, the Hopewell School Administration would now be working on a postmortem on how first school was going all through. year. However, the COVID-19 pandemic had other ideas, and among the many things it took away from everyday life was the traditional way of schooling. Any new initiatives should be shelved for now.
However, the city’s school principal, a self-proclaimed optimist, said she sees a silver lining in having to delay the launch. And while Dr Melody D. Hackney added that she wouldn’t wish the pandemic on anyone, “there have been some blessings as part of this madness.”
“And one of those is that our kids are really missing out on school,” Hackney said last week. “And it can be a traditional school, it can be something different, but they seem to appreciate the value of the school more. I’ve talked to so many kids in the system – I’m mentoring a few students in the system – and all they want to talk about is, “When are you going to let us come back to school?” or “When do I have to go back to school and can you help me convince my mother to let me come back to school?” So I think in some ways the momentum hasn’t been negatively affected at all. “
As part of a balanced schedule, students are in class for 45 days, then outside for 15 days. This cycle is then rotated: input for 45, output for 15, and so on. Instead of the traditional three-month summer vacation, children will return to school five weeks after the end of their previous year.
It still captures all the 180 days that Virginia needs for classroom instruction. It does not affect events such as sports competitions or graduation exercises; these will always be held in their traditional era.
During breaks, called “intersessions”, students will have the opportunity to spend this time at home with their families or participate in extracurricular activities offered by the school system. These activities can range from field studies to internships in local businesses.
Byron Davis is the Balanced Schedule Implementation System Supervisor. One of his main tasks is to develop a catalog of courses that not only include the “three Rs”, but also fun topics such as archery and kayaking, and life coaching topics. such as how to balance checkbooks and other personal finance matters.
Davis said that by developing the catalog, the system wanted to “change the trajectory” of what students learn and how it can be applied to them in real life. Teachers’ contribution to the catalog has been crucial, he said, enabling instructors to “marry their passions” by incorporating those passions into classroom instruction.
“When each teacher is allowed to develop a personalized course rather than a single uniform, then you end up having 290 different courses,” Davis said.
Like it or not, when Hopewell launches the Balanced Calendar, it will automatically be put under the microscope by school divisions inside and outside Virginia. Hackney said she welcomed these outward observations, but ultimately wasn’t letting any potential criticism blur the direction the system is taking. In his mind, what Hopewell is doing may not work for a smaller school system in rural Virginia or for larger systems in urban areas, but it will work for Hopewell.
“This is Hopewell, and we are so confident it will suit our kids,” she said. After all, the interests of the students take precedence over everything else.
“What matters to me is that the students are engaging and having fun and enjoying learning,” Hackney said. “The rest is happening, it will happen automatically. I don’t know that after the first year, we’ll have the kind of measurable results that people have used to gauge our success. But I’ll tell you, we’re going to figure out how to measure it. student voices, student engagement, parents… some of those non-traditional things that really matter. “
For more information on the Hopewell Balanced Calendar Program for the year 2021-2022, click here.
Bill Atkinson (he / him / her) is the news director for The Progress-Index, located in his hometown of Petersburg, Virginia. He is also the breaking news coordinator and is known for “nerd” on political news coverage and history. Contact Bill at [email protected], follow him on Twitter at @BAtkinson_PI, and subscribe to progress-index.com.