Two years ago, 25th District Delegate Steve Landes (R) asked for an in-depth study on the benefits and costs of year-round school. The results are back - and he says they are not what he expected.
A state commission took a close look at whether a year-round schedule would help Virginia's public schools. School divisions on a full-year calendar typically use the same 180 days, but with two- or three-week breaks between grading periods. The study shows essentially the same SOL scores in those schools.
Landes, who represents parts of Augusta and Albemarle counties, says the findings were a surprise. "It's not going to be the big benefit I thought there might be but that's what studies are for—to learn from and to see," he stated.
The study shows the full year schedule does seem to help some groups improve retention.
"It can make a difference for socially, economically challenged students or school systems, or minority students," Landes said.
Currently, just nine of Virginia's public schools use a year-round calendar, down from 31 just three years ago.
"I've worked in a few different school divisions, and some of those school divisions we have implemented year-round schooling. And typically it has not lasted," said Staunton Superintendent Linda Reviea.
The reasons may be culture and cost. Reviea says the schedule can impact family farms and businesses, child care and summer employment. And the commission found that year-round calendars added roughly 3 percent to a school division's budget.
"I would want to sit down to the table if we're going to look at that and make sure that what we're doing is in the best interests of our children, but also making sure that it doesn't create an additional burden on our taxpayers," Reviea said.
Landes says perhaps the smartest changes will be targeted, not sweeping.
"It makes a lot of sense to look at those specific schools in the state that may benefit from that potentially, and find out ways to encourage that if the school system wants to do that," Landes said.
Landes will ask the Department of Education to look at particular school divisions that could benefit from a year-round schedule. He says he'll offer that as a budget amendment during the coming General Assembly session.
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