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‘LIFT’ schools mull schedules

Year-round plan being considered for 7 of 9 West Charlotte schools

West Charlotte High and Ranson Middle School won’t shift to a 200-day year-round calendar next year, Project LIFT Zone Superintendent Denise Watts told a group of parents and faculty Wednesday.

Seven other schools – Allenbrook and Statesville Road elementaries and Ashley Park, Bruns, Druid Hills, Thomasboro and Byers K-8 – are still being considered for a school year that would start in July and include 20 more days than other CMS schools.

Watts said she’ll bring a proposal to the school board in January.

“I could go to the board and it could be only two schools, or one, or even none,” Watts said.

Project LIFT – for Leadership and Investment for Transformation – is a public-private partnership to create major academic gains at West Charlotte and its eight feeder schools, which serve a total of about 7,100 students.

In October, Watts suggested the 200-day plan as an option for avoiding the loss of skills that traditionally happens during summer break.

Under her proposal, students would have two-week breaks in fall, winter and spring, and four weeks in summer, starting in 2013-14.

The extra time, coupled with free academic enrichment programs during breaks, could help students who are performing below grade level gain ground, Watts said.

Watts said 930 parents and faculty from the Project LIFT schools filled out surveys on the plan. More than 80 percent agreed it would bring academic benefits, but only 51 percent said they support the plan. “I’m confused a little bit there,” Watts said.

One-quarter said they opposed the plan and almost as many said they aren’t sure and still have questions. Those are the ones Watts said she’ll be trying to persuade in the coming month.

Many high school students and their parents objected to losing the traditional summer break because they use it to earn money or participate in programs that help prepare them for college.

Watts said those issues persuaded her not to push for the revised calendar at West Charlotte.

At Ranson, she said, the biggest issue is a summer renovation at the school. There’s no way to have it ready for a July opening, she said.

Donors have pledged $55 million for Project LIFT, to be spent over the next five years. But even with that bankroll, adding 20 days to the school year is an expensive proposition; Watts had estimated the cost at $4.7 million a year for all nine schools.

Adding days at fewer schools would reduce the cost for faculty, support staff, busing and utilities.

The LIFT plan also calls for spending money to recruit and support strong faculty, boost family engagement and provide better technology for students and schools.

Helms: 704-358-5033
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