Bakersfield City School District students and teachers may soon be getting a smaller summer break.
The district is working to implement a modified academic calendar in which the school year would start at the end of July rather than August. Summer break would be reduced to about seven weeks, with the summer school program serving as the bridge between school years.
“It is about elongating a process of learning for kids, recognizing that our kids come in various shapes, sizes and learning levels,” said Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Mark Luque. “We have to do our very best to design engaging and meaningful learning experiences that benefit every child, and a 12-week summer break is not the most opportune structure for that. “
Luque said the goal of the change is to reduce the amount of time between when students finish summer school and when the new year begins, so that they will stay engaged throughout the summer.
“Our kids would receive instruction ideally for four weeks during that six-to-seven-week period, still giving them some time to rest, recover and re-energize for the new school year,” he said.
Four weeks would double the length of last year’s program, which lasted just 13 days, according to the district.
While summer break would be smaller, Luque said there would still be 180 days of instruction. Days that students would have normally gotten off in summer are expected to be spread out elsewhere in the year, with much of it going toward extended winter and spring breaks.
A few school districts in Kern County already have similar schedules, such as the Delano Union Elementary School District.
The district’s plan was announced at a District Advisory Committee meeting on Tuesday, in which BCSD officials provided details to parent representatives from each school site on how operation of summer school will change when it’s expected to return next school year.
It was discovered last December that the district is seeking to cancel summer school this year due to low enrollment, higher service costs and other factors. The BCSD board of trustees is expected to officially vote on the matter sometime this spring, according to the district.
Luque said a modified school calendar would not be able to be implemented until the 2020-21 school year at the earliest, a year after the district's revamped summer program is expected to return.
“We’re a large district, and this is a lengthy process,” he said. “We have to gather feedback from all of our stakeholders.”
In the meantime, Luque outlined a few other changes that would be implemented when summer school returns.
One of them is that the district is looking to limit the program to only its most needy students. Luque said the district will examine state assessment data, reading levels and more to determine if a student is in need of a summer program.
“If you have a child who is academically successful, there is a strong likelihood they will not be invited to summer school, because they don’t need that academic support,” Luque said.
In addition, Luque said parents would need to make a commitment to the district that their child(ren) will complete the program, as the district said it has generally seen around 50 percent of students who enroll finish the program.
“When only half of kids are completing the program, there’s a problem there, and parents have to own part of that responsibility,” he said.
Luque didn’t go into any specifics at the meeting on how this commitment would be made.
Luque said another goal is to make summer school a smoother transition for students, as he said students often have to learn at a different school than their own from a teacher they don’t know.
When the program returns, Luque said the plan is to arrange the system so that teachers are instructing children that they know, in the hopes that it will make for a quicker and easier transition for students so teachers can hit the ground running with instruction.
Cassandra Slain, one of the parent representatives at the meeting, said she’s excited about some of the proposed changes to the program.
She said she has a son who has attended the program in the past but didn’t return last year because he felt it wasn’t worth it, as he told her that the first week was about getting to know the teacher and the rules and much of the second week was about having some fun activities before the end of the program.
“That only leaves a few days in the middle where students are getting most of the educational material. I do not think that’s long enough for the kids to get an adequate education in the summer,” she said. “I’m happy to hear the revisions are going to be done. I’m really excited to see how it’s going to turn out.”