LEWISTON — School Superintendent Bill Webster has a ready answer when asked what the perfect school calendar would look like if we lived in an ideal world?

“If there weren’t any political restrictions — and of course there always are political restrictions — I would favor a year-round calendar,” Webster said.

That calendar would have something like students going to school 10 weeks at a time followed by three weeks off, four times a year. That would total 40 weeks of school and 12 weeks of vacation.

Compared to the current school vacation schedule, the 12 weeks of vacation in Webster’s ideal world school calendar wouldn’t be that different. Currently, summer vacations are between nine and 10 weeks, Christmas vacations nine to 10 days, one week in February and one week in April.

Built into that ideal schedule would be one week for students to get extra help if they’re behind, similar to what Lewiston High School and Lewiston Middle School now have with “ice week” during the February vacation and “mud week” during the April vacation. 

Key to how that kind of schedule would improve education are the short breaks, Webster said. Research shows that student breaks greater than two to three weeks, such as the long summer vacation, are detrimental to learning.

“That’s going to be significant in (student) populations (with) high levels of poverty and English language learners,” he said.

Such a calendar would also shorten the transition time all students experience when they return from summer vacation. A year-round schedule would provide more continuity, more sharing.

“You wouldn’t be starting with a whole new clean slate in September,” Webster said.

That kind of school calendar would prevent student learning loss and allow more effective teaching — “a whole slew of reasons that educationally it would be a much more effective use of time,” Webster said.

But that kind of school calendar would require schools to be air-conditioned, and would need buy-in from everyone: teachers, students, parents, communities and the state.

“It would require leadership from the Maine Department of Education, legislative action,” Webster said.

It would have to be implemented on a statewide level. Because of athletics and other interaction between schools, “you couldn’t have one set of schools on one schedule and another with a different schedule,” he said. 

The idea was proposed to Webster several years ago by Longley Elementary School Principal Kristie Clark as a way to help her students learn more.

“I said to her, ‘Great idea, but I don’t see this as something Longley can do in isolation.'”

Bill Webster (File photo)

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