Changes at WSD beginning this school year

By Lynnette Hoffman

Changes at WSD beginning this school year

Winlock School District Superintendent Garry Cameron

Winlock School District has changed its district calendar beginning this school year. Many in the area have concerns that it will impact their children, but the biggest impact should be on test scores and improvement. The Winlock School District has made the choice to change the calendar so there is less time off in the summer. This will help students who struggle when they return to school as not as much time has lapsed since their last class.

Garry Cameron, Superintendent of Winlock School District took the time to sit with us. He stated, "We are happy to announce that Winlock School District is transitioning to a different school calendar this fall. We embrace this new schedule with more connection and opportunity for our students, and flexibility for staff. We have referred to our new calendar as a 'modified calendar,' and some have been asking why the district would want to change from the previous calendar."

To begin with, our students had difficulties during the pandemic, it showed that the students with a less structured environment struggled during the pandemic. Per Cameron, he stated, "The pandemic showed us that extended unstructured, unsupervised time at home can be detrimental for some of our kids. We also know that students suffer from significant learning loss during the 11-week summer, and those concepts need to be re-taught before teaching the curriculum for the next school year."

"The modified calendar will allow the option for students to spend more time with teachers and friends throughout the year and this will grow our students' social and emotional health," he continued. "Student academic performance will improve as we reduce the time needed to reteach from summer learning loss. Student academic performance will also improve as students participate in intersessions. Intersessions are a very important component to a modified calendar.

Intersessions are up to one-week long, volunteer opportunities for students to participate in enrichment activities or re-learn a concept that was taught during the regular year. Students can participate in these intersessions without taking away from the regular 180-day school year. Although we realize not all students will participate in intersessions, we do know many will. We know this because of our participation and waiting lists in after school programs and in summer school."

Staff will also have the ability to arrange personal appointments during the new calendar. Superintendent Cameron stated, "Staff too need the flexibility of the breaks that the modified calendar will provide. Intersessions allow them time to schedule medical appointments or take a few days off without impacting the 180-day calendar. On our previous calendar, the only opportunity to schedule a medical appointment or take personal time without impacting the 180-day calendar was during the summer, winter break or spring break. Teachers and support staff who choose to work during intersession are also able to create enrichment activities, or re-teaching opportunities for students. Also, if they choose, teachers can also split up intersession time with another of their Winlock colleagues."

Cameron took the time to identify and clarify some of the issues that parents and staff will have, he continued, "I would like to clarify some of the concerns out there about the calendar.

Winlock is not going to a year-round calendar. We are going to a modified calendar with an 8-week summer break in each of the next three years. The calendar does not cut summer in half. Summer is reduced from 11 weeks to 8 weeks. School will begin on exactly the same date it would be if we were on the previous calendar. This year school begins on Tuesday, August 30. Students and staff get a week off approximately every 6 weeks. This is in addition to 8 weeks off during the summer."

Many have concerns as to how the school can afford the new schedule, Cameron stated, "How is the district paying for the intersessions? The district received a 5-year 21st Century grant, which currently covers our after school and summer programs. The 21st Century program supports intersession as well, along with supplementing the Balanced Calendar grant funding. The 21st Century grant runs through 2025-26. We are also excited to offer students the opportunity to checkout Chromebooks for school use in late June if their families have plans."

Cameron knows parents have concerns about the schedule, he continued. "All in all, the decision to do this at the district and board level was because we believe this is best for all students. While there will never be a schedule that best fits, and suits all 470 families' needs, we can say that this calendar provides more opportunity for all students, and more flexibility for all students and their families. The research, which is on our website says by modifying our calendar, will help with our learning gaps, and social emotional needs. Our Winlock teachers also voted to approve this calendar. We are excited to see the expanded growth for our students and are excited about the possibilities it will bring. For more information, please visit our website at"

While we know this will be a new transition for everyone in the school district. The goal is to help the students with learning which will affect the students for the remainder of their lives. Winlock is doing their very best to provide the students with the ability to learn without losing any knowledge over the summer. This change will hopefully do exactly what the school would like to see for the students, an increase in test scores. Making Winlock an even better place to live!