Year-Round School Grants to Become Available From State

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After weeks of back and fourth, the State House and Senate have agreed on a new package of education bills. The State School Aid Supplemental is on the Governor's desk. In it is a new grant opportunity for schools interested in transitioning to a "year-round" calendar. Fewer than five districts in the state are likely to get one of these grants. It's a pilot project to see how successful year-round school can be in high-risk districts.

Long after the snow boots are put away, school is still in session at Horizon Elementary in Holt.

"We're in session through late June," said David Hornak, the Principal at Horizon Elementary.

Then after a brief break, they're back at it again. Horizon operates on a "balanced-calendar," taking short breaks often throughout the year, rather than a long summer. It's a schedule Principal David Hornak says works.

"We find that the frequent breaks allow our students to stay fresh. It allows of faculty to stay fresh," said Hornak.

But getting a building ready for year-round school isn't cheap. Schools looking to transition often need to install air conditioning and make other adjustments. That's where 2 million dollars in new grants available from the state come in- an idea originally proposed by Representative Andy Schor.

"It allows a few schools to convert. It's not district-wide. It's not every school in the state. It's an option," said Rep. Andy Schor, 65th district

Districts that want to explore that option can apply for one-time grants worth up to $750,000. They must be willing to transition one building by fall and keep that school on a balanced calendar for at least three years. Schools that apply must be considered at-risk.

It's a grant Representative Schor says the Lansing School District is an ideal applicant for.

"We see that Lansing has several schools that fall in the bottom five percent, and I think this is a tool that will allow many of those students to excel," said Schor.

And Superintendent of Lansing Schools Yvonne Caamal Canul agrees. She says the Lansing School District will apply.

"Kids, students are being asked to learn so much more than they were 50 years ago and such a faster pace, so this calendar needs serious consideration," said Yvonne Caamal Canul, Lansing School District Superintendent .

It's a calendar educators like Hornack hope all schools consider.

Rep. Schor's original bill asked for 10 million dollars from the state to be granted to schools interested in transitioning to a year-round calendar. Though there's only 2 million in this year's school aid package, he believes there will be high demand, and hopes the state is able to provide more grants next year. The Department of Education notify schools by June first.