Maple Lane will be
back in full swing on Aug. 4 -- the earliest ever for any school
in New Castle County.
Pecorella, who has been an educator for 25 years, said the new
routine has not engendered anything like academic jet lag. "The
internal clock is just running a little bit fast," she said.
explained, what's happening at the school in Claymont is more
'normal' when stacked
present-day lifestyles than an agriculture-driven calendar.
Summer vacation isn't what is used to be.
"You don't see many
kids out playing. They're either inside with t.v. or video games
or, with a majority of families having two working parents, at
daycare," she said.
On the other hand,
there are sound academic reasons for condensing off-time, she
said. Citing the experience of a teacher who taught the same
group in first and second grades, Pecorella said several
children in the class who were reading at grade level in June
were under level in September.
Teachers have long
complained that the first month or so of school has to be spent
playing catch-up. If the new arrangement doesn't completely
eliminate that, it is almost certain to reduce the amount of
remedial time that is required. And that, she said, is certain
to sit well with teachers.
There isn't much
likelihood, on the other hand, that a month-early start will be
a slow start. "In elementary school, you can't start slow. Our
teachers have been coming in all summer and getting everything
lined up. When the students arrive, they'll be all ready to go,"
Going from a
traditional school-year calendar to what Pecorella and others
like to refer to as a 'balanced calendar' hasn't been fraught
"Everybody has been
enthusiastic and anxious to make this work," she said. "I
haven't seen a mass exodus."
McCorriston (above) prepares her second-grade
classroom for the reopening of school which Maple
Lane school secretary Carol Carter checks in
On the contrary, she
added, it is as much 'situation normal' as if Labor Day was
again the starting signal and not just the year's first holiday.
She credits that to
the fact that the school community, including parents, has been
fully involved in planning for the change. "This is something
we've worked on together. It's not something that's being
imposed on anybody," she said.
"We had 290 students
in June and I expect to have about 290 when we open. We've lost
a couple of families, but that's because of their individual
circumstances," she said. The main problem has been families'
unwillingness to juggle two school calendars where they have
children in other schools.
word-of-mouth process has resulted, she said, in several
families who have not previously had children in school
enrolling kindergarteners. "When they heard from others (parents
of current students) what we were doing, they were willing to
give it a try," she said.
arrangements were made to tie the changeover at Maple Lane to
the state's public school choice program. Pecorella said she
hasn't made it a practice to delve into the reasons any student
has been 'choiced' and declined to speculate on what, if any,
effect a 'balanced calendar' will have on that in future years.
She did note that
she and the Maple Lane staff have been in close contact with
Seaford Central Elementary, which instituted a 'balanced
calendar' in Delaware and is the only other school in the state
to use it this year. "Their arrangement is that everyone goes
there through 'choice'. Right now I understand they have a
waiting list [to enroll]. My prediction is that will happen
here, but I don't know how soon," she said.
She will not,
however, predict anything like universal acceptance of the
arrangement. "I'll be the first to admit this is not something
for every family," she said.
Staff turnover this
year has been normal, she added. No one has left because of the
A good indication of
its acceptance, she said, lies in the fact that the four
teachers Maple Lane 'shares' with other Brandywine district
schools -- music, art, library and physical education -- have
agreed to work two-day weeks in August, five-day weeks in
September and three-day weeks in October.
arrangement is the result of there being the first of three
scheduled 'intersessions' then. Those, Pecorella said, are most
significant advantage of a 'balanced calendar'. Two weeks in
October and one each in January and May will be spent providing
extra help for students needing it and a wide range of
enrichment course for those who want them.
former, Pecorella said past practice has largely been a matter
of requiring students who fall behind to make it up in summer
school. "Now we'll be able to catch it and help them before they
get too far behind," she said.
performance is expected to improve.
courses are voluntary and will be offered on a menu basis. Each
will last a week and four will be offered during morning hours
and four in the afternoon. Students and their parents can pick
whatever combination suits them. That is roughly comparable to
offering a college-type interim program to children in
kindergarten through third grade. Regular and retired teachers
and volunteers from the community will be the instructors.
"We have three
conditions for 'intersession': no homework, no uniforms and no
misbehavior," she said.
that adopting a 'balanced calendar' is a sharp break with
tradition, Pecorella explained that it is not particularly
radical. It is not, as some people might think, a matter of
going to year-around schooling.
The calendar has the
same number of days as a traditional school calendar. The winter
and spring holiday seasons will be observed and there will be a
six-week summer vacation when classes end in mid-June to resume
in August of 2005.
Also, the change at
Maple Lane is not being undertaken as a pilot program nor