The argument against implementing a 45/15 school calendar district-wide in Rochester
Rochester Public Schools (RPS) is considering a district-wide change to the school calendar termed "45/15." Under 45/15, schools would start in mid-July, between 45 day periods of instruction, a 15 day break will occur. Summer break entails the month of June and half of July. Longfellow Elementary School in Rochester currently operates under the 45/15 calendar.
Due to the fact all families in Rochester may be affected, if this calendar is implemented district-wide, our group decided to research the 45/15 schedule. We read current peer-reviewed research, contacted a professor in sociology who has studied year round school, observed state rankings, and studied the effects of 45/15 in cities outside of Rochester. From what we have learned, we are opposed to expanding the 45/15 calendar district-wide. We learned:
1) Studies have not determined an educational benefit of 45/15 for mainstream students. These studies are peer reviewed, encompass multiple states, and sample 100,000s of students.
2) Property values decrease in school districts which mandate a 45/15 year round schedule. Some families will move to surrounding communities to avoid the schedule and those new to Rochester may decide to live elsewhere.
3) Summer income will be lost for both students and employers. Kids saving for college will only have six weeks to work a summer job.
4) Obtaining family vacation time will be difficult for members of medical teams at the Mayo Clinic, especially if the employee is lower in seniority due to the shortened summer.
5) Cities that have implimented 45/15 calendars are now reverting back to the traditional school year. This year, Des Moines has gone from five schools that employ 45/15 to one due to a lack of achievement and increased student absences. Over the next two years, San Diego's entire district will spend $12 million to revert from 45/15 back to the traditional calendar for similar reasons.
6) A 45/15 calendar would not coincide with college schedules. High school students will not be able to participate in college courses. Family vacation times would be limited with a student in RPS and another in college.
7) Teachers lose the ability to take summer jobs or further their education during the summer break. Teachers may be lost if they live in another district with kids on a different schedule. The same would apply for an RPS teacher who has children in private school. Hiring teachers becomes more challenging in a 45/15 district.
8) Studies demonstrate women in the workforce have a greater chance of terminating employment under a mandated 45/15 schedule, as finding daycare is difficult.
9) The local economy will be negatively affected. The Olmsted County and Minnesota State Fairs, area pools, Quarry Hill, Oxbow Park, Lanesboro, Camp Victory, YMCA, Eagle Bluff, etc. depend on summer break. We feel the impact to all must be considered in the 45/15 discussion.
10) Sports and extracurricular activities will be affected. There will be practices and games during vacations if 45/15 is district wide. This will also affect transportation during 45/15 vacations, as kids are committed to activities while parents are at work and buses are not available.
11) Families could have children on two different schedules if 45/15 is only partially implemented. This greatly limits vacation time for families. This also negates the ability of older siblings to provide childcare to younger ones.
12) Going back to school in July will affect student morale for those who did not choose this schedule, as family and friends outside the district continue to celebrate summer. Air conditioned buses will also be needed.
13) Student sleep patterns are affected. Students finally get accustomed to waking up early and then have a 15 day break which is repeated three times throughout the school year.
14) Many families value the summer weather in MN for enjoying outdoor recreation. July and August are peak times for family vacations within the state.
15) Implementing 45/15 will come with added costs to our district. Less costly options which demonstrate a more marked effect on education should also be entertained, including later start times, lower student to teacher ratios and expanded summer programming.
The reasons put forward for implementing 45/15 have been largely opinion-based. Stress has been cited as a reason to change to 45/15. However, as shown by this list, considerable stress will be experienced by families who are unable to choose a traditional school calendar. Less reteaching after summer break is also cited by supporters. Reteaching is the same, it is just spread out over the six week and 15 day breaks.
Those of us opposed to expanding the 45/15 school schedule district-wide are not against expanding 45/15 choice options in Rochester. For example, Lincoln Elementary, which is K-8, could become 45/15. Alternatively, Longfellow Elementary could expand its 45/15 schedule through 8th grade. Nevertheless, we contend that implementing the 45/15 schedule beyond the above options will be problematic. This is especially true if mandated for families who do not want to adopt the year round schedule. At the high school level, 45/15 becomes even more complex, largely due to the fact that a 45/15 school-within-a-school approach is not legal in the state of Minnesota.
Rochester Public Schools has incorporated a 45/15 Stakeholder Team designed to provide recommendations to the board. Given that the 45/15 schedule could be implemented district-wide, we consider everyone in the community to be a stakeholder. We hope this list prompts you to get involved in the discussion.
Josh Banks, Aaron Johnson, Gabriella Bedekovics, Danielle Teal & Eric Berg
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(Cover graphic: The Med City Beat)