Planning continues for K-8 Mitchell-Scarlett partnership

Balanced calendar year will get more study

From AAPSNews Service

Planning for a proposed Ann Arbor Public Schools K-8 campus on the east side will move ahead, but a balanced school year calendar will not be implemented in 2011-12.

The Ann Arbor Board of Education heard a formal presentation on Dec. 8 about the proposed campus at Mitchell Elementary and Scarlett Middle School, a partnership between the University of Michigan School of Education and the school district which could bring a balanced school year calendar and enrichment activities for students.

Board committees had received interim reports on the plan, but this was the first presentation to the full board. Two parent forums were held this fall at Mitchell and Scarlett, raising questions by parents and prompting the district to extend its planning time.

The project planning committee originally hoped to launch the full partnership project in the 2011-12 school year, but members said last week they had decided against implementing a balanced calendar year in 2011. A district message to that effect was sent to parents of Scarlett Middle School students as well as its feeder elementary schools of Mitchell, Carpenter, Allen and Pittsfield.

Interim Deputy Superintendent for Instruction Lee Ann Dickinson-Kelley said the enrichment portion of the partnership would move ahead, but within a traditional school calendar. She said the hope is to have planned enrichment programs, called “inter-sessions” in place by February of 2012 to pilot so the community would have a better understanding of them.

Mitchell Elementary School Principal Kathy Scarnecchia told the school board that the Mitchell-Scarlett campus was selected for the project because an achievement gap persists there and because both schools serve a comparatively large proportion of ethnically and economically diverse populations. Such a setting would provide a rich array of opportunities for beginning teachers, she said.

The district will survey parents in January and host additional parent forums, as needed, to gather more feedback on the project. The community will also be invited into the extended planning process.

Officials have also said the geographic proximity of the two schools also played a role in the selection.

Members of the Ann Arbor Board of Education voiced support for the proposed partnership last week and said they looked forward to hearing more about it as plans progress. Parent comments were mixed, with some concerned about the balanced calendar and how it might affect families with students at different schools and others saying they were looking forward to the opportunities such a calendar would bring.

If adopted, the balanced calendar would include extended school breaks – allowing for either family time or school enrichments – and a shorter, six-week summer recess with school starting in early August and ending in late June.

Some parents asked the district to consider an “opt in” or “opt out” policy as it would relate to any future calendar change. Others have suggested the district consider such a K-8 campus as a “school of choice” similar to Ann Arbor Open @ Mack.

Dickinson-Kelley said many of the issues raised by parents were being taken into account. She said the district would survey parents in January and host additional parent forums, as needed, to gather more feedback on the project. The community will also be invited into the extended planning process.

School board members suggested that all parents in the district be surveyed so that the level of interest in the project and the balanced calendar could be gauged.

Officials stressed that plans for a K-8 campus did not include transporting students between middle school and elementary school campuses, but noted that the K-8 approach would address the teaching partnership between AAPS teachers and U-M teaching interns and staff.

AAPS administrators involved with planning for the K-8 Mitchell-Scarlett Partnership include: Interim Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Lee Ann Dickinson-Kelley; Interim Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education Ruth Williams; Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools Joyce Hunter; Scarlett Middle School Principal Gerald Vazquez; Scarlett Middle School Assistant Principal Edward Broom; and Mitchell Elementary School Principal Kathy Scarnecchia.

Members of the planning committee representing the U-M School of Education include: Associate Dean for Research Elizabeth Moje; Clinical Associate Professor of Education Cathy Reischl; Clinical Associate Professor of Education Tim Boerst; lecturer Debi Khasnabis; and graduate student assistant Melissa Stull.

Related stories:

Ann Arbor, U-M eye partnership for campus at Mitchell and Scarlett

Mighty mathematics at Mitchell: U-M Interns join after-school program


Balanced Calendar

The planning committee for the K-8 Mitchell-Scarlett Partnership with the University of Michigan School of Education will take an additional year to plan and study the program, piloting some enrichment partnership activities but using a traditional calendar for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school year. A “balanced calendar” is still being considered beyond 2011-12. Here are the basics being considered:
• Approximately 6 weeks of summer break, including all of July.
• School would start in early August and end in late June.
• One or two week “inter-sessions” offered in fall, winter, and spring, aligning with or adjacent to times on the regular district calendar. Inter-sessions would be additional days for children and families who choose to participate.
• It woud have the same school curriculum and same number of official school days as other AAPS schools on a traditional calendar.

About Inter-sessions

Some students regress during summer break, requiring time to be taken for re-teaching at school start-up. The inter-sessions are designed to counter the effects of this “summer slide.” Research on extending school time suggests that well-designed, extended school year programs can support student learning, especially for students at risk.
• One- or two-week inter-sessions” would be offered in the fall, winter, and spring. Children could either take vacation during these times or choose to participate in academic and enrichment activities taught by teachers, U-M faculty and teacher interns.
• Possible topics: academic enrichment activities through study of literacy and math, special science or social studies topics, the arts  and humanities, physical education and other explorations. There would be opportunities to link to resources on the U-M campus.
Source: Ann Arbor Public Schools, Dec. 8, 2010 presentation to the Board of Education

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