Sunday, March 3

Martin County considers year-round school pilot program

Could students in Martin County move to a year-round school schedule?

The topic is on the table after Florida lawmakers passed a bill last year to create a pilot program in five districts across the state.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Education

Year-round school doesn’t mean more days in the classroom. It just means they are spread out differently. But as you can imagine, that brings a lot of different considerations into play.

Martin County parents have a lot of opinions on the possibility of a new school year schedule.

“I think it’s absolutely amazing,” Anastazia Huryan said.

“What was broke that needed to be fixed?” Debra Stanton said.

“I went from a regular school calendar for like first grade, second grade. And then I went into the year round-calendar,” Josh Gentile said. “I had a great experience. I loved it. All the teachers were great.”

The Martin County School Distroct submitted an application to the state to be considered for a year-round school pilot program, but won’t move forward if the community is not on board.

“We’re passionate about obviously student success and student achievement. And anything we can do that we think will benefit our students and give them that edge when it comes to learning, when it comes to growing as students and citizens of our society, we want to make sure that we carefully review that,” said Jennifer DeShazo, the chief of staff for the Martin County School Disrict.

More than 400 people have responded to the district’s online survey on the hot topic. Concerns range from transportation to differing schedules and child care.

Potential pilot locations include Pinewood Elementary School, Port Salerno Elemenary, School, Warfield Elementary School, and Indiantown Middle School. This district could move forward with one, all four, or go district-wide.

“I don’t understand why you would only do one school and it only affects certain parents and not everybody,” Stanton said. “Not that I want that to happen. I’m completely against it.”

The National Association For Year-Round Education said about 4% of students across the country are learning in a year-round model. Huryan said she’s seen it work.

“It does support student growth. The research shows it’s a continuous education. Students don’t lose any academic gains over the summer,” Huryan said.

“Every department weighed in on what moving to a year-round model would look like for their division,” DeShazo said. “Our community has brought some great questions in for consideration with regard to child care, with regard to parents having children in multiple schools, what would that look like from a parenting situation. Some of our teachers have children who are enrolled in the district. They’ve asked questions about what it would look like if they were on one schedule and their children were on another.”

Even if the school district moves forward with it’s application, the Florida Department of Education will select only five districts from those that apply to participate in the four-year pilot program.

“I think, at this point, the main thing for everyone to understand is it’s far from a done deal,” DeShazo said. “We did have to submit the application to the FLDOE if we wanted to be considered, but we don’t know yet in Martin County if that’s the direction we want to go.”

As far as how the potential pilot schools were chosen, DeShazo said that “some of our schools in the last few years that maybe didn’t perform with regard to the accountability system quite where we wanted them to be, and we want to make sure that, particularly in those schools, we’re giving those students every advantage and learning opportunity possible.”

Matt Theobald, the president of the Martin County Education Association, the county’s teachers’ union, released the following statement to WPTV about the proposed switch to year-round school:

“The MCEA does not currently have an official position on the implementation of a pilot program for year-round schooling in Martin County. Nevertheless, we know that teacher input is vital to any policy decisions, especially those that affect employee working conditions, and we encourage the district to seek input from all stakeholders to ensure that any decisions made are in the best interests of our teachers, students, and parents.”

The Martin County School Board will meet Tuesday at 4 p.m. to weigh all of the feedback and really take a closer look at this issue.

You can attend the meeting and give public comment, or fill out the survey on the district’s website by clicking here.

“We’ve got a lot of great material for the school board to consider and we anticipate a great discussion at the workshop on Tuesday,” DeShazo said.

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