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Lawmakers unveil year-round plan for Va. schools

2/5/2014, 3:34 p.m.
State Sen. Donald McEachin (D – Henrico), Sen. Henry L. Marsh (D-Richmond) and Del. Rosalyn Dance (D-Petersburg) recently unveiled amendments ...
Sen. Donald McEachin

State Sen. Donald McEachin (D – Henrico), Sen. Henry L. Marsh (D-Richmond) and Del. Rosalyn Dance (D-Petersburg) recently unveiled amendments to the Virginia budget that would fund grants for year-round schooling programs.

The budget amendment would provide funding for planning grants for school districts 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 through the Virginia Department of Education. The budget amendments would bring the funding levels for year round schooling to $3 million per year.

“Working to give schools the option to go to a year-round schedule is good for schools and students,” said Marsh. “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.”

Marsh and fellow lawmakers cited an October 2012 JLARC study, which revealed 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.

Joining the lawmakers in calling for year-round schools were Petersburg Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Joseph Melvin; city of Lynchburg Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Brabrand; LeVerne Marshall, principal of William Marvin Bass Elementary School, a successful year-round school in Lynchburg; Lamont Bagby, school board member for Henrico County Public Schools; Henrico Superintendent Dr. Patrick Kinlaw; and Kelly Harris-Braxton, executive director of the Virginia First Cities Coalition.

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

They noted that most year-round school calendar programs don’t 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.

“Year round calendars are an excellent option to help struggling schools and students,” said McEachin. “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.

McEachin said that considering how much, and how quickly the students improve, lawmakers 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,” he said.

Dance added that these schools need year-round options to help those struggling.

“I’m pleased to help bring these resources to our schools, and give school systems the option to use the year-round option,” she said.