Balanced school year: students prefer the current calendar

By Lorilyn C. Lirio

Students prefer to keep the current schedule, according to a survey conducted by Olympia School District this spring.

Sandy Hallstrom, a community leader involved with the Balanced Calendar Advisory Group, provided an update to the OSD Board of Directors on Thursday, July 14.

The OSD explores the calendar school year with longer periodic breaks throughout the school year. Like a traditional calendar, a balanced calendar has the same number of school days – 180.

Hallstrom said there were 3,033 responses to their two-question survey. Of these, only about 12% were from students. The remainder comprised: 62% OSD family members, 22% OSD staff members, approximately 12% students, and 4% community members.

One of the survey questions asked respondents what they thought of the current schedule.

About 73.6% of student respondents said they preferred to keep the current schedule; 17.8% think it’s a good idea to pursue a balanced schedule and 8.5% say they’re undecided and need more information.

As for family members who responded to the survey, 42.5% think it’s a good idea to pursue a balanced schedule; 39.7% want to keep the current schedule; 17.8% said they needed more information.

About 47.1% of school staff who participated in the survey said they preferred to keep the current schedule; 32.7% said they were pursuing the concept; 20.2% were undecided.

About 55.7% of community members said they preferred to keep the current schedule; 33% agreed to pursue a balanced schedule; 11.3% were undecided.

Principal Hilary Seidel expressed disappointment that students were not equally represented as family members. “We shouldn’t make big decisions – to explore or not to explore. [balanced calendar] – without doing a better job of talking with students and getting student input.

Student representative Rahma Gaye was concerned that a balanced schedule would reduce opportunities for internships and college preparation for students due to periodic breaks spread throughout the school year.

Director Scott Clifthorne, who helped coordinate the advisory group, explained that changes could occur at the regional level. “Internship opportunities will be synchronized with the balanced schedule.”

More information

Superintendent OSD. Patrick Murphy commented on the survey, saying there were no overwhelming responses from participants who did not want to touch the current schedule, but instead a significant number wanted to look into a closer look at a balanced schedule.

“I think it would be a mistake not to keep moving forward and see where we can find consensus in our community on this,” Murphy commented.

Hallstrom pointed out that many people still don’t understand the Balanced Calendar. She said there were lots of references to a year’s schooling and a 9-5 job that would work year-round.

Murphy encouraged people to come to the balanced calendar pagewhich contains survey results, meeting summaries, balanced schedule information, and examples of balanced schedules in other school districts.

Virginia S. Braud