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School year-round? Virginia Democrats unveil proposal for 12-month programs

At a press conference today, Democratic Senator Donald McEachin (D-Henrico,)Senator Henry L. Marsh (D-Richmond) and Delegate Rosalyn Dance (D-Petersburg) unveiled amendments to the Virginia budget that would fund grants for year-round schooling programs.

state-capitol2They were joined by Petersburg Schools Superintendent Dr. Joseph Melvin, City of Lynchburg Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Brabrand and Mr. LeVerne Marshall, Principal of William Marvin Bass Elementary School, a successful year-round school in Lynchburg, Mr. Lamont Bagby, school board member for Henrico Schools, Henrico Superintendent Dr. Patrick Kinlaw, and Kelly Harris-Braxton, Executive Director of the Virginia First Cities Coalition.

In an October 2012 JLARC study, it was shown that student achievement on the Standards of Learning tests and grades improved even more quickly than expected at the schools that switched to the year-round model. This was especially true for African American, Latino, economically disadvantaged, and limited English proficient students.

Most “year-round” school calendar programs don’t actually increase school days, but instead reorganize the 180 required school days into blocks so that students have less time to forget material over a long summer break.

The budget amendment would provide funding for planning grants for schools interested in determining the viability of year round schools in their districts or help pay to implement the programs that can fund additional school days to help students who need more time with the material. The grants could also be used to pay for preschool or alternative school programs. The program is voluntary and schools that are interested in the grants can apply for them through the Virginia Department of Education. The budget amendments would bring the funding levels for year round schooling to $3 million per year.

Sen. Marsh said, “Working to give schools the option to go to a year-round schedule is good for schools and students. Petersburg schools already did a study to determine that they want two year round schools this coming school year. With these budget amendments, this proven model could be adopted by many more schools in Virginia. Our students deserve the best chance to succeed and year round schooling could give them that chance.”

Sen. McEachin said, “Year round calendars are an excellent option to help struggling schools and students. This investment will help failing schools determine if the year-round model is right for them and give them a chance to succeed. Giving students the option to return for more instruction means they’re more likely to achieve and a shorter break means they have less time to forget. Considering how much, and how quickly the students improve, we need to make sure more schools know about the option to switch to year-round. I hope that with this program, we can give schools the tools they need to help at-risk students achieve.”

Del. Dance said, “These schools need year-round options to help struggling schools and students. I’m pleased to help bring these resources to our schools, and give school systems the option to use the year-round option.”

Kelly Harris-Braxton said, “we support best practices to help disadvantaged students achieve so that the achievement gap is a thing of the past.”

 
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