Sep 7, 2023 - News

More Valley schools opt for shorter summers

Illustration of a clock with a pencil second hand

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

In many parts of the country, students are heading back to school this week.

  • Arizona has long been ahead of the crowd, traditionally returning to the classroom in early August. But a growing number of Valley schools welcomed students back in July this year.

What's happening: Tempe Union High School District and its feeder schools in the Kyrene and Tempe Elementary districts shortened their summers this year, joining districts in neighboring Chandler and Gilbert with July start dates.

  • In exchange for their early start date, students and teachers in these districts will get two weeks off in the fall and spring, instead of just one. This is called a modified year-round schedule.

Why it matters: Some educators and researchers believe shorter summers can help minimize students' "summer slide" — learning lost during extended breaks from school.

  • The schedule may also help with recruiting teachers who want their time off spread throughout the year. Some studies also point to reduced teacher stress.

Between the lines: Kyrene and Tempe Union surveyed families and staff members before making the switch. Employees favored the year-round schedule by almost 60%. Families were more evenly split, favoring the traditional calendar 46% to 43%, with the remainder having no preference, Ahwatukee Foothills News reported.

Flashback: The Balsz Elementary School District, which consists of several Title 1 schools in east Phoenix, took a more drastic step to combat summer learning loss in 2009.

  • It added 20 extra school days to the academic calendar, giving students a six-week summer and one-week breaks in the fall and spring.

Yes, but: There were unintended consequences to adding more school days, according to the district.

  • Teachers weren't paid for the extra four weeks of work and many left for other districts. The district also experienced extra costs by keeping the buildings open longer.
  • The governing board ultimately decided to revert back to a 180-day schedule in 2018.

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