One Room begins second year of year-round school
Published: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 5:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 5:34 p.m.
The six-week period from mid-July to the end of August is arguably the most miserable time of the year in Florida. Intense heat gives way to downpours, followed by cloying humidity that draws a sweat in the half-minute it takes to walk from the front door to the mailbox.
While most Alachua County public school students are either waiting for the rain to stop or hunkered down inside air-conditioned homes, 250 or so students at the One Room School House charter school already are settling back into their schoolwork.
Classes started July 14 for the school at 4180 NE 15th St., which went to a year-round school calendar in July 2013. The charter school, one of Florida's oldest, had been running on the traditional late-August to early-June calendar since its establishment in 1997.
"The families love it," founder Neil Drake said of the year-round calendar.
School is out from the beginning of June to mid-July. Classes then run for six to nine weeks at a time, followed by a tutoring week. There are five such weeks, when students who need next extra help can get a few hours of tutoring in the morning, while other students can take the week off.
Some of the tutoring weeks adjoin winter or spring break, to give families more time to travel if they wish, while the mid-September and late January breaks just stagger the year and help keep energy levels up, principal Brett Beckett said.
To accommodate families with other children in public schools and to better serve parents' work schedules, the One Room School House offers a day camp during tutoring weeks.
Alexandria Cobb, whose son Cayden is in kindergarten, agreed for the same reasons, but thought it was a shame that all Alachua County schools aren't on a year-round calendar. It's difficult to make plans if everyone isn't on the same schedule, Cobb said.
The One Room School House admits students by lottery, so some families may have a child at the charter and another child at a different school.
Boulware Springs Charter School, an elementary school that opened its doors for the first time on Monday, also has a year-round calendar. Students there go to school for 10 weeks and then get two weeks off.
The school serves kindergarten through fourth grade this year and will add fifth grade next summer.
Co-director Megan Lane said the school already has a long waiting list for spots in the kindergarten through third grade classrooms, although as of last week there were a few fourth-grade spots open.
Some of the One Room School House's students like going to school in the summer. Anthonet Teekpeh is 10 years old and this is her fifth year at the One Room School House. The change is good, she said.
"You get to learn before other people get started," she said.
Other students said they would prefer to be playing with their friends and family members who go to other schools.
"I only like Saturday," said a sullen Cayden Cobb, 5, a few days into his first year of year-round schooling.
Research has shown a year-round schedule helps prevents much of the learning loss students tend to experience with a traditional 10-week summer break.
Drake said the school's first year on the year-round calendar went well, although it's too soon to see an impact on student performance.
Contrary to the school's past performance, the elementary school received an F this year according to the state's school grading system, which is largely based on student scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
Apart from earning a C for the 2007-08 year, the elementary school has consistently been rated an A or a B.
The middle school, graded separately, received a B this year and had one of the highest overall FCAT writing scores in the school district.
Drake attributed the poor grade in the lower grades to two factors: First, the teacher who taught all of the math classes for fourth through eighth grades left One Room School House last year, and the classes were mainly taught by substitute teachers, he said.
Second, the relatively small size of the school means that the scores of a handful of students can make the difference between letter grades, he said.
"Losing one person made a big dip for us," Drake said, although he said no families left the charter school because of the F grade.
Unlike the magnet programs offered at middle- and high schools throughout the county, Drake said he wanted his students to have an option to participate in a specialized program at the school they already attend, and that isn't limited to students who are already high achievers.
If the only requirement to join the programs is to ensure students are not falling behind in their work, then science, math, and writing for the joy of writing can be encouraged and marketed toward everyone, he said.
In the future, the day camps that take place during tutoring weeks will be more focused on the two tracks.
"We're growing this part for the future," Drake said.