Mt. Vernon Schools exploring shorter summer, more mid-year breaks
Students and teachers, how would you like to have a shorter summer vacation — but a few more breaks during the year?
That’s a potential schedule that the Mount Vernon School District is looking at.
Superintendent Ismael Vivanco said part of the motivation for the change is that the district wants to eliminate what is known as the ‘summer slide’ — the loss in learning that can occur when students get out of the rhythm of school and forget material over the near three-month summer break.
State Superintendent Chris Reykdal has advocated for a more balanced school calendar to eliminate the summer slide.
“The summer learning loss is a significant challenge for our families, especially our low-income families,” Vivanco said.
Vivanco said more than two-thirds of students in the district qualify as low-income.
“There’s just a big gap between the end of the school year and the beginning of the school year … and so we’re just exploring, is there maybe a better way to redistribute those 180 days [of school]?” Vivanco said.
Additionally, the Mount Vernon School District believes having more one-week breaks or four-day weekends sprinkled throughout the year would help with student and teacher burnout.
“From the beginning of school, September 1st, for example, you’re really going hard until Thanksgiving. So might it make sense to have some kind of a break in there?” Vivanco suggested. “And then the same after January first, we have a day here and there, but up till Spring Break, that’s a long time.”
Vivanco pointed out that this can be especially challenging for teachers, considering that they often grade papers and plan lessons over their weekends.
“Our teachers put a lot of time and effort and work into this, so we want to try to balance that out for them as well,” he said.
One idea would be to take two or three weeks from the summer and add one-week breaks in mid-October and mid-February, times of year when Vivanco said there is “a lot of student-teacher burnout.”
The district could also turn three-day weekends into four-day weekends.
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“There are just so many different models, and we have to see which model might make sense for Mount Vernon if we do put something different in place,” Vivanco said.
District leadership is still looking at how this schedule change would impact everything from extra-curricular activities to child care for Mount Vernon families. Vivanco noted that the district could potentially provide enrichment opportunities over breaks that could serve as child care.
Vivanco stressed that the planning is still in very early phases. District leaders are busy gathering input from the community; forums and surveys with families, students, staff, and businesses are being planned in the new year. If any changes were to be made, Vivanco said this would likely not happen until at least the 2024-2025 school year.
“This is going to be slow,” he said.
So far, Vivanco has heard feedback from a few hundred district families. He said the majority have been curious and intrigued by the idea.
“I hope that we all continue to explore this with an open mind, and before we think it’s a good idea or before we think it’s a bad idea, that we really continue to learn about this idea and make the best possible decision that might make sense for Mount Vernon schools,” Vivanco said.
Other districts throughout the state are exploring a similar model.