Monday, August 20, 2001

Hoop students return earlier

Extended school year is planned

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Students at Jane Hoop Elementary in Mount Healthy head back to school today, a week before others in the district. It's the first year of a plan to move to an extended school year.

        “Research shows that by cutting summer from 12 weeks to six weeks, the children retain 33 percent more of the information,” said Principal Todd Bowling.

        “Therefore, when you start the school year, kids are not so far behind, teachers don't have to spend so much time re-teaching and they can move on,” he said.

        With an extended year program, Hoop Elementary joins schools such as Silver Grove in Kentucky and Cin cinnati Public's Crest Hills. Other Mount Healthy students start school Aug. 28.

        This is a pilot year at Hoop, where students will get a one-week break at the end of the first quarter in October. That will be an intervention week for students who are behind or have not passed portions of the state proficiency test.

        The goal is to hold a two-week intercession program at the end of each quarter. Students who don't need the extra help will be offered optional enrichment classes

        at that time. Activities will include field trips and further challenges for gifted students.

        “Our kids sometimes suffer because they don't get the same opportunities as kids in affluent schools,” Mr. Bowling said.

        What's more, he said, the school doesn't want to leave parents scrambling for child care arrangements.

        Students who need extra help will eventually attend school for 220 days, 40 more than required. Other students will attend the required 180 days.

        The idea for an extended year came from the principal and teachers.

        “We felt this was the best way to deal with the transient population. Twenty percent of my population turns over every year,” Mr. Bowling said.

        Terri Dick, a third-grade teacher at Hoop, said the extended year allows children who are lacking in some skills to get remediation.

        “It also feeds on their self-esteem. If they're not always struggling, they can feel better about who they are.”

        Mrs. Dick, who has been a teacher for 15 years, said the first six to eight weeks of school are spent getting students reaccli mated and refreshing their skills. Some students don't pick up a book or do any math all summer, she said.

        “People say it's like riding a bicycle, but it's not. If you don't use it, you lose it.”

        At Silver Grove, parent, student and staff surveys this year showed a 90 percent or better approval rating for the extended year.

        “Students love it. The staff loves it. Parents have come to get used to it,” said Isaac Weldon, principal of the preschool-12 school.

        One problem was finding day care for students during breaks, but that has been resolved through a Silver Grove day care center, Mr. Weldon said.

        Like Hoop Elementary, Silver Grove switched from the traditional calendar because of research that shows kids retain more with shorter summer breaks, he said. Silver Grove's summer break is seven weeks.

        “It doesn't take near the time to get back in the swing of things once they get back into school,” Mr. Weldon said. “Also, I have found there's quite a bit of improvement in behavior.”


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