7/19/18 Graham Middle thrives year-round

Parents with sixth-graders file from the Graham Middle School auditorium to meet teachers during the open house Wednesday evening, at this ABSS year-round school.

Robert Thomason / Times-News

Parents with sixth-graders file from the Graham Middle School auditorium to meet teachers during the open house Wednesday evening, at this ABSS year-round school.

Graham Middle thrives year-round
By Jessica Williams The Times-News 7/19/18     
Reprinted with permission.  

Graham Middle School Assistant Principal Rhoda Graves explains to parents and sixth-graders appropriate dress, as seventh- and eighth-graders Quan Wilson, Riley Smith, Moshiya Gunn and Dajra Arthur model onstage.  

Graham Middle School Assistant Principal Rhoda Graves explains to parents and sixth-graders appropriate dress, as seventh- and eighth-graders Quan Wilson, Riley Smith, Moshiya Gunn and Dajra Arthur model onstage.

 

GRAHAM — Most Alamance-Burlington students have 38 days left of summer vacation, but year-round schools are already gearing up for 2018–2019.

There are certain advantages to that.

Graham Middle School Principal Lee Williams, who served as Assistant Principal at Southern Alamance Middle before making the switch in 2016, says the biggest advantage is the lack of “summer lag.”

“It’s data proven that within kids taking that long summer vacation, there’s a percentage of what they learn that they will lose. Here, we’re cutting it to five weeks, so that summer lag percentage gets cut very short,” Williams said.

Sixth-grade math teacher Tori Neal has seen the difference between the first day of school on a traditional schedule and the first day on a year-round schedule first-hand.

“Last year, being new to it, I found myself not doing as much review, review, review, review,” she said. “They had a five-week break, and they came in and really didn’t need so much review like I had seen at the traditional schools. That’s the biggest thing.”

Alamance County has five year-round schools: Eastlawn, Haw River, North Graham and South Graham elementary schools, and Graham Middle School.

Operating on a 45/15 schedule, where 45 days of instruction are followed by 15 days of vacation and a five-week summer break, they’ll start Monday, July 23, and begin their first two-week intersession Sept. 24.

Eighth-grade math teacher Evelyn Rogers says that’s right around the time students start to get complacent and teachers start to feel burnt out, so the intermittent breaks are welcomed by both.

“I feel like, on a year-round schedule, right where we get to the point where we’re just getting a little bit irritated with each other, we can go home and we all take that break, right? And sometimes, I feel like it helps me reflect as a person and a teacher when we have that many breaks because I can think about different things I want to do with my lessons, maybe have more creativity,” Rogers said.

Many teachers work through intersession because it allows them to get ahead (and they get paid).

Some offer to tutor students who are falling behind, and/or take that time to focus on their own kids, attending sports games, recitals and other events that are normally missed because they’re working.

The breaks also allow for vacations when the rest of the state is still working or in school.

“I can go to Carowinds when nobody else is there,” Williams laughed.

But the most significant advantage is the opportunity to get to know students and their families on a deeper level than they could on a traditional schedule.

“We’re together for 11 months out of the year, for all three years of middle school, so a lot of times these kids get to the point where they just say, ‘Hey, this is my [school] aunt,’ and we go from being a teacher to being family,” Rogers said. “So I can say, ‘Hey, sit your butt down.’ Their mama knows me. The kids know me as a person. So it goes beyond being a teacher.”

“It really is that every teacher’s door is open and we’re all here for you,” Neal added.

Since both North and South Graham elementary schools operate on a year-round schedule as well, students come into Graham Middle already familiar with the alternative calendar, but they have to acclimate to a traditional schedule once they reach high school.

Though the students don’t mind the change, Rogers and Neal agree they’re fine right where they are.

“After making the leap to year-round, it would be very hard for me to go back to traditional,” Neal said.