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Utah year-round elementary students head back to school

Published: Thursday, July 25 2013 6:15 p.m. MDT

Fourth-grade teacher Heather Coray talks to parents on the first day of school at Foxboro Elementary School in North Salt Lake on Thursday, July 25, 2013.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

NORTH SALT LAKE — Many of Utah's year-round elementary schools, including several in Salt Lake and Davis counties, opened their doors to a new school year Thursday.

At Foxboro Elementary School in North Salt Lake, administrators held a special Back to School morning, which began with an opening flag ceremony and allowed parents to spend the first day of school helping their children settle in and meet with teachers.

"We thought we'd give it a try this year," Foxboro Principal Kevin Prusse said of the event, which was held in lieu of a traditional Back to School night.

Prusse said the first day of school, particularly one coming in the middle of summer the day after a state holiday, is often not the most productive day of the year as students acclimate back to an academic schedule. By inviting parents to take part, he said, the year feels like it's off to a good start.

"It's a good transition for the kids," he said. "It's only been three weeks, but they're glad to be back."

Foxboro is currently in its fifth year of operation, Prusse said, and its second year of year-round scheduling. Under the year-round system, groups of students are given breaks from the classroom throughout the year, allowing the school to operate at a smaller capacity.

The format is typically used to address overcrowding, as is the case at Foxboro. Davis School District operates five year-round elementaries, including Buffalo Point Elementary in Syracuse, Eagle Bay Elementary in Farmington and Sand Springs Elementary in Layton, which switched to the scheduling format this year as a result of enrollment growth.

But in addition to alleviating the strain of a large student population, many educators believe year-round schooling has academic benefits as well. They argue that year-round students are less prone to summer learning loss, also known as the "summer slide," than their peers on the agrarian calendar.

"I taught at a year-round school before I was principal," Prusse said. "I didn't have to do very much makeup."

Vinicio DeLeon, a parent attending the Back to School morning with his three children, said his family has had to adjust to the year-round schedule, but he ultimately thinks his children have benefited academically from it.

"It certainly was a big change," he said. "I think year-round will be the best option."

The switch to year-round is difficult for Leigh Okleberry, a parent who has children in elementary school, junior high school and college. All of her children have a different summer break — an inconvenience that is exacerbated by her job as a crossing guard for Foxboro Elementary.

"The kids stay at home and I'm here year-round," she said.

But Okleberry also agreed that there is an academic advantage to consistent education throughout the year.

"That would be the one benefit I would say is worth it," she said.

She also spoke highly of Foxboro's administration and the Back to School morning they had planned.

"I think it's awesome," she said of the event. "The more parent volunteer and involvement the better. This is a good school for that."

Lincoln Stone, a fourth-grade student at Foxboro, said he preferred the year-round schedule and was happy to be back in school, but added that it does come at a price.

"I kind of wish I had a longer summer," he said.

His mother, Melisa Stone, said she appreciated the opportunity to visit with teachers at the morning event.

"It does feel a little chaotic," she said, "but all Back to School days are."

In Jordan School District, spokeswoman Sandra Riesgraf issued a statement reminding the public that some schools were back in session and encouraging safe driving in school zones.

"As our children hit the books, we want to remind anyone hitting the road, driving around our schools, to use extra caution," she said. "Please keep your eyes focused and pay attention around school crosswalks and other areas where children commute to school on foot. We are excited and ready to begin this new school year, and we want everyone to have fun and be safe!"

Email: benwood@deseretnews.com

Twitter: bjaminwood

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