First meeting of 501’s Year-Round School Exploratory Committee

Topeka Public Schools has exploratory committee researching pros and cons of year-round schools.
Topeka Public Schools has exploratory committee researching pros and cons of year-round schools.
Published: Dec. 10, 2020 at 6:35 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The first meeting of Topeka Public Schools “Year-Round School Exploratory Committee” lasted a brief half hour Thursday afternoon.

Aside from introducing members of the committee, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, Billie Wallace, gave members homework. She shared a Google Doc with the group, asking them to conduct research and include both their name and the link of articles that they find related to multiple models of year-round school.

Wallace shared with the group that this is not the first time that the school district has studied this topic. It was researched in school years 1998-1999, 2001-2002, and most recently in 2013-2014. She shared that in her preliminary research, she learned that there is a National Association for Year-Round Education (NAYRE) which they will look to for resources. A quick search by her revealed no Kansas schools currently hold year-round school.

During the meeting, there was talk of piloting year-round schools in one or two 501 schools first. Dr. Jill Hackett, Assistant Superintendent of Academic Services, shared her own experience in North Kansas city where two elementary schools piloted a similar schedule.

“Found a lot of benefits, and I haven’t studied the research recently,” Dr. Hackett shared. “I don’t know that there were significant differences in achievement for those who were in other programs versus those two schools. But, we found that students and parents did enjoy it.”

State Street Elementary Principal, Dr. Troy Sawyer, also shared his experiences in a Colorado school district--saying that year-round school failed there. However, he offered his dissertation on the topic as research for the committee and also said he could share his thoughts on why the experiment failed in his prior district. Sawyer told the committee he has ideas for how it could be successful in Topeka.

At least two other committee members shot down the possibility of a pilot program, saying TPS either needs to be “all in” or not at all. Board member Dr. Richard Bonebrake was one of those voices, saying he believes it would fail if the calendar change is not district-wide. Others expressed concern for staff members who have children in other school districts, saying that year-round school could present a lot of scheduling/child care challenges--particularly during the summer months.

A Kansas National Education Association rep for NEA Topeka, Richard Bolejack, said that they do not have any immediate opposition to exploring the possibility of a calendar change. However, the Topeka High special education teacher noted that there would be a lot of contractual hurdles to overcome.

The committee is set to meet four more times before the end of the school year, presumably after which they will present the full school board their findings. They are set to meet again on January 28, February 26, March 25, and April 26. All meetings are scheduled to take place from 4:30 PM to 5:30 PM.

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