Olympia schools wants to offer the public another look at the balance calendar concept


Olympia School District (OSD) is considering stepping up its campaign to inform community members about the balanced calendar concept.

“It seems like folks don't understand what the balanced calendar is,” said (OSD) President and District 1 Director Maria Flores during the OSD hybrid working session on Thursday, August 4, regarding plans on the balanced school calendar.

During its March 15 meeting, Superintendent Patrick Murphy explained that shifting to a balanced calendar would spread out school breaks into shorter, more frequent intervals that district officials say would make the learning process more continuous.

“So you would have some time off that are just breaks, but we'd be able to fund intercession where there could be those enrichment and maybe remediation or all those activities,” Flores said Thursday.

“The more that I've talked to people and explain that to them, they're like ‘Oh, that's great, I pay for that for myself, for my kids during the summer,’” Flores said. “So that was a learning [moment] for me– we need to explain intercession and the breaks differently,” she added.

The board deliberated the findings of the most recent survey, which showed that the sectors of students (73.6%), community members (55.7%), and staff members (47.1%) still want to retain the current calendar. In comparison, family members (42.5%) are the only sector with more votes to pursue a change to the balanced calendar.

Superintendent Patrick Murphy cautioned the board about the results of the survey.

“Be aware that this survey that we are using to help drive recommendations has its limitations,” Murphy pointed out. “What we really want to do is bring in an outside facilitator and really do a more formal process like what North Thurston did – get representatives from all of our schools, students, staff, and family members, and really think about if we could create our own balanced calendar.”

Regional implementation

Murphy also expressed his concern about syncing up with other school districts in the region regarding the calendar, “We are such a tightly knit community here in Thurston County that with any sort of the change in the calendar …we really need to be on the same page as much as possible.” He explained that many families are involved with more than one district, either because their children attend schools in different districts, or parents work in a different district from the one in which they live. 

District 2 Director Justin McKaughan added that embracing a balanced regional calendar would bring in a lot of positives to remedy the amount of learning lost from the kids who are still bound to the traditional calendar.

“I agree a regional approach is best for this. Just how much learning is lost from these kids? I think of a first grader, and then that kid is not getting enrichment or other camps– they're just sitting at home doing nothing. The gap just widens, and so this is a way to… solve that and also help provide like ESY [extended school year] services,” McKaughan added.

However, Flores indicated that her interactions with some parents revealed a concern regarding co-parenting during the summer that the board must look into.

“A concern that came up from the survey for me is parenting plans. So they're traditionally built around summer breaks and holiday breaks. It's a lot to have to go back to court, re-negotiate all of that, so that is a factor that I brought up and was concerned with,” said Flores.


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