Charter school going to year-round schedule
Published: Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, July 8, 2013 at 10:36 p.m.
So long for summer; see you in September?
Not at the One Room School House, Gainesville's oldest charter school.
Classes start Monday at the school, for which the Alachua County School Board approved a year-round calendar earlier this year.
There are a few more school days in the One Room School House's year — 184 days instead of 180 days for the public schools — but the July-to-June school year is punctuated by five tutoring weeks, when students can get individualized help from teachers.
"We'll be able to concentrate our efforts on the kids who really need it," said Neil Drake, founder of the One Room School House.
Drake established the school in 1997, with about 55 students in grades 1 through 5.
There were only a handful of charter schools in the state at that time, the former Rawlings Elementary School teacher said.
Over the past 13 years, the One Room School House added more students and more buildings.
Now entering its 17th year, the school has about 250 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. Drake said the class sizes remained small — usually 10 to 15 students in each class.
"We've always felt like being small is important," he said.
The year-round calendar is part of Drake's philosophy of tailoring education to each student.
Stretching out the school year prevents learning loss over a long summer, when students typically aren't doing a lot of practice work, he said. It also prevents curriculum compression, which happens when too much material gets squashed into a small window around testing dates.
"It's another way to prevent (students) slipping between the cracks," Drake said.
Instead of having regular classes during the off-weeks, students can meet with teachers for tutoring from 8 a.m. until noon. Drake said the tutoring will be required for some students, but open to anyone who wants help with certain skills.
A day camp will be offered from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the school during tutoring weeks to accommodate working parents.
The One Room School House calendar will have the same holidays and Thanksgiving, winter and spring breaks as the public schools. Summer break will last about a month, from early June to mid-July.
Drake said One Room School House parents are mostly excited about the new calendar.
"Most of their kids are bored crazy by the end of the summer," he said.
The school conducted a survey of parents and teachers last year to gauge interest in a year-round calendar. All of the teachers and nearly all of the parents were on board, although Principal Brett Beckett said the middle schoolers weren't thrilled at first.
No families have left the school as a result of the change, Drake said.
"I was super happy about it," said Debbie Sorgi, whose 7-year-old daughter, Faith, is going into second grade at the One Room School House.
Sorgi said she attended a year-round school growing up in California and was pleased with the way that went.
A year-round school calendar "keeps your mind active and you don't have that lull over the summer," she said.
Faith, who started at the One Room School House in kindergarten, doesn't have much to say about the new calendar. Sorgi said her daughter doesn't seem to have a problem with it.
"She likes her friends, she likes going there," Sorgi said. "I think it's better for her to have a schedule over the summer."
Crystal Seabolt, whose two sons attend the One Room School House, said she, too, was receptive from the beginning.