TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida lawmakers are looking at taking away the traditional summer vacation in favor of a year-round school model in several schools across the Sunshine State.
A pair of bills moving through the state legislature — HB 891 and SB 1564 — would create a pilot program that school districts could apply to.
The goal is to make up for lost learning from the COVID-19 pandemic and decrease the summer slide.
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Year-round school doesn't mean students are spending more than the 180 days inside the classroom, but rather spreading out breaks during the year and changing the structure of summer.
"It's when it's our time to travel, whether it's my husband and I, or us as a family," said Palm Beach County mom of three Brie Mazin.
Mazin said she doesn't like the sound of year-round school.
"The thought that could be taken away from them? No, no, no, no," Mazin said. "There's even a saying. We go 10 for two. You go through 10 months of the school year just so you can get to the two that are the best of your life."
A proposal in the Florida Legislature would create a pilot program involving at least one elementary school in five different school districts for a period of four years. School districts could apply to the Florida Department of Education if they want to participate.
The Senate Pre-K-12 Education Committee moved the bill forward on April 4.
"For many families living in poverty, this provides a safe opportunity for children during the summer, and it also helps with the learning loss that takes place during summer months for both high-performing and low-performing students," Sen. Rosalind Osgood, D-Broward County, said at the committee's meeting earlier this month.
"There are districts across the nation that are researching this topic, that are implementing this idea, and the benefits are paramount," said Dr. David Hornak, the executive director of the National Association For Year-Round Education and also the superintendent of schools in Holt, Michigan, where they've been using a balanced education calendar for almost 30 years.
Hornak said it not only benefits the students' education, but the staff as well.
"They are more energized, therefore they are going to engage their students in a deeper level, which turns into better behaved students, more productive academic time, and the wins continue," Hornak said.
Hornak added that, right now, only 4% of students across the country are learning in a year-round model. He acknowledged the hesitation parents may feel.
"We still have a six to eight week summer, depending on how the calendar swings. So there is still time to enjoy that summer intermission, catch that breath, and come back recharged," Hornak said.
Mazin said she hopes her kids' calendar remains the same.
"I am double fingers crossed, hoping," Mazin said.
WPTV reached out to our area school districts about this proposal. None have committed to applying for the year-round model, should the bill pass. If it does, the pilot program would begin in the 2024/25 school year.
Documents related to SB 1564 show that in the 2020/21 school year, 16 schools were considered year-round schools by the Florida Department of Education. Most were aimed to serve students in Department of Juvenile Justice facilities or other alternative schools.
The Charlotte County Public School district in Southwest Florida operates three elementary schools on a year-round calendar structure. Leaders in that school district tell WPTV the model has been very successful and is based on parent input at the specific schools.
Brevard County Public Schools also has one charter school that offers year-round instruction for elementary and middle school students.
A common model for year-round school is the 45/15 structure, meaning students are in school for 45 days and then have a 15-day vacation.