Alternatives to Extending School Year

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Tuesday may have been the first day back for most students, but kids at Horizon Elementary in Holt have been in school for six weeks.

"We started August 4th," says Horizon Principal David Hornak.

The K-4 building is the only school in Ingham County on the year round model.

"We have the same number of days as our traditional counterparts, but we choose to take periodic breaks," Hornak says.

He says his students only have six weeks for summer break. But Hornak believes shorter interruptions in learning are more effective.

"We get right down to current year's curriculum, within days, if not minutes of when students return, instead of having to reteach to catch up," Hornak says.

But some educators want to take it one step further. Along with shorter breaks, they think students also need longer school years.

"Children have to be competitive worldwide," says William Mayes with the Michigan Association of School Administrators. "Children have to compete with children from other countries."

Mayes tells us Michigan students are in class an average of 165 days. He supports the governor's proposal to extend that to 180. Students in countries like Japan and China are in school for 220-225 days, says Mayes.

"Nobody likes change but a baby in a wet diaper," Mayes says. "And adding days might be a change."

School administrators we talked to say the've been fighting for more instructional hours for years. But more time in a classroom means more money, and that's just something Michigan public schools don't have.

"If revenues don't keep pace with inflation, don't keep pace with all the other costs, then we go behind," Mayes says.

Educators say if the money's not there, more schools should look at the year round model.

"A lot of time is spent reteaching that first month in September. This would eliminate a lot of that."

The only other school implementing the year round model is Hunt Elementary School in Jackson. Hornak says it will be up and running next school year.

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