Lewisville ISD has begun asking teachers, parents and students how they would feel about year-round school, and they all have a few questions of their own.
LISD considering a program called Additional Days School Year (ADSY), a program made available by the Texas Education Agency.
House Bill 3, which passed at the 86th Texas Legislature, included an initiative to add up to 30 additional days to the school year through one of three options – voluntary summer learning, intersessional calendar and a full-year redesign.
LISD is exploring a full-year redesign for two campuses – Rockbrook Elementary and Lewisville Elementary, though other campuses could bring in the program later.
Monday, Susan Heintzman, ADSY project manager, updated the Board of Trustees on surveys sent out to staff, parents and students at the two campuses.
There were 287 respondents to the survey. Of those, 46 percent said they would be interested in ADSY, 42 said they would not be, and 12 percent said they would need more information.
Among the questions they were asked was what would be their goals for students who participate in ADSY. Frequent answers included student enrichment, school enjoyment, provide a safe environment and help students progress without the “summer slide.”
When asked what impact they want to see, answers included higher achievement, better communication, collaborative skills and critical thinking.
They were asked what challenges they foresee, and answers included families would have different schedules for their children, some families may not want 210 days of school, different breaks from other schools in the district and transportation.
A focus group consisting of 81 teachers, parents, students and community members also examined ADSY.
The focus group took a deeper dive into topics, such as how the day would be structured in a program like this.
“More field trips, they would love to see more device-free time but have mind teasers to challenge the students,” Heintzman said. “Staff felt like having half day or early release for the students where the teacher would have that collaboration time.”
She said flexibility was another suggestion.
“We do have a set amount of time that we teach the subjects every day,” Heintzman said. “So several people brought up the flexibility and not having to stick straight with those minutes but be able to stretch it out over time.”
Trustee Kristi Hassett wanted to make sure that expanded time would be used appropriately.
“If we’re going to extend the school day I definitely want to make sure we add extra time for re-teaching and re-learning,” Hassett said. “But I don’t want to use those 30 days just to space everything out more.”
Heintzman said that’s where teaching flexibility comes into play.
“Some of the schedules we looked at would be adding project based or inquiry based learning,” Heintzman said. “Some of those days they’re still hitting the standards but in a different way.”
The group was asked what impact to student learning they would expect to see with a longer school year.
Parents said it would allow students to have less stress and have more time to learn. Teachers said it would allow for student growth if done correctly.
“We don’t want to add 30 more days of the same old thing,” she said.
Staff said students would still need breaks throughout the year. Teachers also said students will have more “thinking time” to process what they learned in class. Others said teachers wouldn’t be pressed to finish a curriculum within a certain time frame and that re-teaching would be available.
But they also saw challenges, such as attendance, child care arrangements, transportation and family scheduling. Heintzman said the key is to use the extra time for more engaging opportunities.
“If we build a program where the kids have more engagement and have opportunities to learn in different ways that motivate them, they’re going to want to come to school,” Heintzman said.
Heintzman said other concerns included student and teacher burnout.
Heintzman said the district will continue to reach out to teachers and parents to gauge their interest.
“We need to continue process because 287 is not enough to get a good picture,” Heintzman said, “but it’s a start.
“We need to hear from teachers because it’s dependent on them buying in and how they see it can work,” Heintzman said.
Heintzman said teachers had questions about how the process would work, such as if they would get paid more to work more days. Heintzman said they would be since their salary is based on a daily rate.
Other questions included what happens to teachers at those campuses if they don’t want to participate. Superintendent Kevin Rogers said there would be a place for them either way, but he also reminded the board there’s no requirement to implement ADSY.
“There’s no pressure on us to do this,” Rogers said. “I think it’s great we’re checking into it.”
Heintzman said more work is needed and that the process is far from over.
“It’s starting the conversation of what can we do differently to help these kids reach their potential,” she said.