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Warren, Sterling Heights

August 6, 2013

Year-round school begins in Warren Consolidated

By Maria Allard
C & G Staff Writer

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Year-round school begins in Warren Consolidated
Shaila Parvin and her daughter Maria Sohana, 5, find their way to class for the first day of school Aug. 5 at Siersma Elementary School in Warren. Three Warren Consolidated Schools — Holden, Fillmore and Siersma elementaries — are on the year-round calendar for 2013-2014.

WARREN — Initially, Siersma Elementary School parents Michael and Robin Robertson were skeptical about the year-round concept Warren Consolidated Schools will implement this year.

“But then we decided this is what we wanted to do for them,” Michael Robertson said of their son Talan, a third-grader, and daughter Ravyn, who began first-grade. “It gives them more time for education. I already have two really smart kids, so keep feeding them knowledge. We are excited to try this out.”

On Aug. 5, the school bell rang for three of the district’s elementary schools: Holden and Fillmore in Sterling Heights and Siersma in Warren. All three schools had a half day Monday with a full day slated for Tuesday, Aug. 6. In April, the school board unanimously approved piloting the year-round calendar program at the three schools.

Year-round, also known as a balanced calendar, includes the same number of school days as traditional schools, but the days are organized differently. Year-round schools are based on the 12-month calendar, rather than the traditional 9-month calendar from September to June. Summer vacation, for instance, is six weeks long in the year-round setting, as opposed to 12 weeks in a traditional calendar. Year-round classes begin in August, rather than September.

“The kids got bummed out because the summer season is going to be shorter, but when they saw all the vacation days during the school year they were excited,” Robertson said.

Back-to-school at Siersma brought about the usual feelings of excitement and nervousness as any first day of school. Parents darted around finding their children’s classrooms as others caught up on summer vacation. Students — with backpacks featuring Hello Kitty, Batman, “Cars” and “The Little Mermaid” — lined up outside the building. Some parents captured the moment in digital photos, and there was plenty of hand holding until the 8:02 a.m. school bell rang.

As school got underway inside Lisa Koziara’s kindergarten classroom, students sat at tables coloring pictures. As they got comfortable, their new teacher gave parents an overview on the upcoming school year and answered questions. Then it was time for all the kindergarten parents to head over to the cafeteria for refreshments and a ‘welcome’ from Principal David Murphy.

“Moms and dads, give your babies a big kiss,” Koziara said. “We’ll see you after school.”

This is Murphy’s second year at Siersma.

“I see some familiar faces and a lot of new faces as well. We’re excited to start this new year-round adventure this year,” Murphy said. “We think it’s going to be a very successful option in the school district.”

Mandy Lisecki felt “a little” sentimental when bringing her son Michael Morris to his first day of kindergarten.

“I’m just holding it in,” she said. “He’s excited.”

Lisecki said year-round will work well with her work schedule. She thinks year-round is worth a try for the students.

“I think it will be better,” she said. “They’ll be smarter. They won’t forget.”

Amanda Ross, who waited with daughters Candice Ross and Amber Ross before class began, supports year-round.

“It’s so they don’t lose what they learn, and the teachers don’t have to teach the prior year’s (lessons,)” Ross said. “It seems like they only have a half a year to teach them. So far, yes, I like the concept.”

Ross said she didn’t feel like summer vacation flew by.

“The longer breaks, I think that’s going to help,” she said.

Year-round supporters say the concept will improve student achievement because it will reduce the time teachers spend during the first part of the school year reviewing curriculum from the previous year. Children also will retain what they learned over the summer because the break is much shorter. Students are engaged in their education all year long, proponents said. 

WCS officials had to apply to the State of Michigan for a waiver from the requirement to start school after Labor Day.

Under the district’s year-round calendar students are in session Aug. 5 through Oct. 25; Nov. 11 through Feb. 14; March 3 through April 4; and April 23 through June 18, with six weeks off during the summer of 2014. According to the district’s website, the three year-round schools will have the same Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday breaks as the rest of the district’s traditional schools.

Siersma, Holden and Fillmore families not in favor of the year-round calendar were able to “opt out,” and families at district schools not chosen to become year-round were able to “opt in.”

Many parents not in favor of year-round voiced their concerns at the April meeting. Some cited their children were already thriving in the traditional setting and felt a change would disrupt that. How quickly district officials moved forward on the matter bothered others. Some were concerned it would break up the community, and other parents felt children need a real summer vacation.  In addition, families with children in middle school or high school would now have children in school at different times.

For more information about the WCS year-round schools, visit www.wcskids.net.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Maria Allard at allard@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1045.