Starting Friday, Jan. 22, the Lyle School District will begin piloting a flexible schedule at its elementary school in Dallesport and its secondary schools in Lyle.
The district -- along with the Bickleton and Paterson school districts -- received approval from the state Board of Education in November to operate a flexible school calendar on a trial basis for the remainder of this school year and the following two school years. (A link to the district's new calendar can be found at lyleschools.org.)
"We've been talking about and planning for this for the last three to four years, so we're as ready as we can be," Lyle Superintendent Martin Huffman said. "We have a lot of support in our communities for doing this, so we're going to give it a good shot and see what happens."
According to Huffman, the flex-schedule school week will run two to five days a week, depending on holidays, school activities and scheduled breaks, yet maintain for the rest of the 2009-10 school year the number of hours students spend in school. Moreover, the flex schedule will allow snow days (days when school isn't held because of winter weather conditions) to be made up on Fridays.
"We will evaluate the new pilot program frequently over the next months to determine the success of this new progressive schedule for the students and the district," Huffman said, adding, "The district hopes to achieve significant economic efficiencies with this change, as well as provide Lyle students with an excellent education."
The flexible schedule that goes in to effect on the first day of Lyle's second semester will consist of regular student days, staff development days (also called Learning in District, or LID, days) and laboratory, or lab, days.
Labs will be open on Fridays in Dallesport and Lyle, from 8 a.m. to noon. Certified and classified staff will be available at both campuses on these days to work with students. (Because the district will not be providing transportation on these days, students--be they in elementary, middle or high school--can choose to attend a lab closest to their home.)
"For example, a high school student living in Dallesport may go to Dallesport Elementary to work on homework or projects instead of going to the Lyle campus," Huffman explained. Students who attend a lab day will be served lunch at mid-morning.
Teacher LID days also will be scheduled on Fridays. These staff development days, said Huffman, will focus on school improvement projects in mathematics, community communications, curriculum needs and teaching methods.
"The ultimate goal of this progressive change to our school calendar," said Huffman, "is to realize a significant savings in fuel, substitute staff, some utilities, and reduced transportation, maintenance and operations costs."
Those aren't the only benefits associated with the flex schedule, however, Huffman noted.
"The efficiency of the flexible schedule, as reported by other districts currently using it, are increased attendance by both staff and students, an increase or no reduction in academic achievement, higher involvement from students and patrons in some activities, and quality prep time for staff."
Should it determine the experiment isn't working, however, the district could revert to the traditional 180-day calendar. Huffman said the district will evaluate the program holistically through student attendance and participation in extracurricular activities, grades, periodic testing, staff input and community surveys.
"Parents and staff will have ample opportunity for comments," he added.
In the final issue, though, Huffman isn't worried about whether the district's flexible schedule will be a success.
"We studied a lot of school districts in the planning for this, and none of them have gone back," he said.