Private money could pay for a longer school year at nine west Charlotte schools but only if families and faculty support the idea, say organizers of Project LIFT, a $55 million five-year school improvement quest.
Project LIFT for Leadership and Investment For Transformation will hold three community meetings this month to get feedback on the possibility of year-round school. The state legislature authorized those schools to add days and/or alter the standard school calendar, but the state wont pay for salaries, transportation and other costs.
It doesnt make sense to do this if people dont see it to be a benefit, said Denise Watts, the administrator in charge of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Project LIFT zone.
Foundations, corporations and other donors have pledged $55 million to help boost test scores, graduation rates and other measures of academic success at West Charlotte High and the eight schools that feed into it. Among the goals is a 90 percent graduation rate at West Charlotte by 2017.
The school board approved a contract to let the philanthropic board help shape decisions at those schools.
Watts, who works for CMS but is paid with private money, said she believes more time in school would benefit the LIFT students, many of whom are performing below grade level on basic skills.
Expecting them to catch up with the same amount of time doesnt really make sense, she said Monday.
Watts said she hasnt developed a detailed proposal, but she anticipates using a single-track model, rather than the more complex multi-track schedule CMS has approved for First Ward Elementary, an arts magnet, beginning in 2013-14. Multi-track scheduling, which is often used to cope with overcrowded schools, means some students and teachers are on break while others are in class. Single-track would provide the same breaks for all.
If theres not overwhelming support for adding days, Watts said she wont pursue that plan. But she could still juggle the 185 days in a standard school calendar so students would have more and shorter breaks, instead of the long summer stretch where many lose academic ground.
After the three October community meetings, Watts said her staff will compile the results and report back to the community in November. A plan for extra days would have to go to the school board in December, she said.
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