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Pine Point goes to year-round school

Pine Point School Administrator Rochelle Johnson has certainly made an impression in her first year at the helm of the K-8 facility.

It was early this year that she and her fellow school officials brought a proposal before the Pine Point School Board to help reduce summer learning loss among the district's 68 students: A year-round school.

Specifically, the proposal was to implement a Flexible Learning Year Program where students would, instead of having one long, three-month summer break, be given four shorter breaks during the school year -- with one break at the end of each quarter.

The school's administration came up with the extended school year proposal, Johnson said, after taking a look at the results of the students' Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) assessment tests.

What the tests showed was that students in the district were having difficulty retaining what they had learned during the school year over the three-month summer break.

"The teachers had to spend a month or so (at the start of each school year) re-teaching what the students had already learned," Johnson said.

In some schools, the summer learning loss issue is addressed through holding summer school --for which they receive grant funding.

"We don't have that (grant funding)," Johnson said. "But we do know that summer learning loss occurs."

Once the school board had given Johnson the go-ahead to seek approval for a year-round school calendar, a series of public meetings were held to disseminate information about the proposal among residents of the Pine Point district.

Teachers were asked to research other year-round schools around the country, to see if it was something that could be implemented in their community.

"We found (a flexible learning schedule) in Wisconsin that we really liked," Johnson said.

It was that calendar that formed the basis for their own proposal, she added.

Finally, on June 2, Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius approved the school's application to implement a Flexible Learning Year Program for the 2011-12 academic year.

What this means is that classes at Pine Point will start Aug. 1, continuing until June 12, 2012.

There will be a three-week break in October, a four-week break in late December/early January (to accommodate the holiday season), another three week break in late March/early April, and finally a 6½-week break from mid-June through the end of July.

"It shortens up the summer (break) by half and distributes that vacation more evenly throughout the year, so we'll have a much more balanced schedule," Johnson said.

The district will need to submit periodic reports to the Minnesota Department of Education over the next two years, showing the students' progress in academic performance.

Johnson said they are also hoping to see improvement in attendance -- from both faculty and students -- and a reduction in "academic burnout."

The hope, she added, is that with periodic breaks throughout the school year, students will come back at the beginning of each quarter refreshed and rejuvenated.

"We hope they'll be excited to come back and start the learning process again," she said.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454