Within the next five years, your child's school calendar could look drastically different, namely a much shorter summer. 4-29-14

Within the next five years, the calendar for Knox County Schools could look very different.

In his introduction to the new five-year strategic plan for Knox County Schools, Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre explained why he's considering a new calendar.

"You know the traditional academic calendar hasn't changed all that much in 100 years. It was largely built around when kids had to help out with the harvest, an agrarian society," he said.

A balanced calendar is not year-round school, but it will shuffle breaks and shorten the traditional summer. Students will spend about the same total number of days in class as they do now.

Balanced calendars operate on cycles of nine weeks of classroom instruction, followed by three-week long intersessions.

The intersessions allow time to help students who are struggling, or offer enrichment opportunities to those performing well.

"You might have an arts organization come in and be a part of that intersession," McIntyre explained. "Or maybe the symphony would do something with us, or a robotics class taught by a scientist at the Oak Ridge National Lab."

Summers would last about six weeks.

"It's still a summer, it's just not as long," the superintendent explained. "You don't see as much of a summer learning loss that you sometimes experience."

At least one other school system in East Tennessee, Alcoa, uses the balanced calendar system.

Viewers posted their mixed opinions on the WBIR Facebook page.

"How are parents suppose[d] to find reasonable child care for after school and during their 3 week breaks?" asked Stacy Harris Robinson.

"Great idea! No more playing catch up every August and September from all they forgot over the summer," said Jill Marshall.

Student Shelby Hengar added this: "Between sports, homework, and chores I personally would like the 3 week breaks because I get stressed out."

"Bad," wrote Cindy McCroskey Williams. "I don't feel like I see my kid enough already… and we look forward to summer."

At this time, district leaders are still discussing the idea. The calendars for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years are already finalized, so the earliest a balanced calendar could be implemented is three years away.

The Board of Education votes on school calendars before they are finalized.

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