HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — A year ago, there was one school in Arkansas operating under a year-round school calendar. Now there are 10, and next year the Hot Springs School District (HSSD) could bump the number even higher.
The district held a discussion exploring the idea with parents Thursday. The response was mixed while concern and consideration were on the faces of families.
Lavon Chatman walked into the community discussion on a year-round school thinking one thing.
“First thing that came to my mind, I’m like, oh, my goodness, they’re going to be going out, going to school all the time,” Chatman said.
He learned otherwise. Under HSSD conceptual calendar, Summer would still exist. It would just be shortened to seven weeks instead of eleven. This allows for longer Spring breaks, Thanksgiving breaks, and some shorter weeks.
“The number of student instructional days doesn’t change. Our students go for 178 days. Currently, they would still go 178 days,” Dr. Stephanie Nehus, Hot Springs School District Superintendent explained. “What would change would be the breaks.”
According to the Arkansas Department of Education, 10 schools currently operate on year-round calendars (all four schools in Wynne School District, both schools in the McCrory, all three schools in East Poinsett County, and the Excell Center in Little Rock.
It’s just a fraction of the hundreds using traditional methods. But there was only one year-round school a year ago.
Superintendent Nehus said, “We are willing to explore this because we do think it would have a positive impact because it would minimize that learning loss that happens traditionally in the summer.”
Despite potential educational benefits, parents worry about childcare, summer jobs, sports schedules, and more.
“For two weeks we need to put thousands of kids into childcare, there’s no place to put it,” said one man in the back.
Not long after another person emphasized, “Overall, I’m in support of this idea.”
To consider all the angles, a survey is being sent to staff, parents, and high school students so that nothing is overlooked.
Chatman said, “With everybody getting involved with that, I think it’d be a great change.”
If the discussion is positive, Dr. Nehus said a year-round calendar could be voted on by the school board as early as February and be implemented next year.
It would take about three to five years to collect the data to see if more structure year round is helping kids improve their education.