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Westminster school district extends school year into June to give kids extra learning time

Goal is to accelerate learning after pandemic year
Westminster schools
Posted at 6:47 AM, May 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-27 08:47:46-04

WESTMINSTER, Colo. — While most kids around Colorado began their summer vacations this week, some students are taking advantage of a little extra time in the classroom.

Westminster Public Schools decided to offer 12 extra days of learning to make up for lost opportunities during the pandemic.

Dr. Jeni Gotto, Westminster’s chief of instruction and assessment, said the district surveyed parents in January and found a lot of interest in extending the school year.

“Even our kids that started out — when this whole pandemic started — already ahead of their academic peers, we still want them to have the opportunity to accelerate and continue to grow,” Gotto said.

Gotto said the extended school year will give teachers a chance to go over material that they didn’t have time for during the regular school year due to lost class time. Participation is voluntary for students, and Gotto said the goal is to make it fun as well.

“Our principals and our teachers have planned a pretty phenomenal 12 days, focused on the core content areas and instruction, but they've come up with very unique kind of elective outdoor activities just to make kids excited about coming back every day,” she said.

About half of students throughout the district chose to participate in the extended year. Most are in elementary and middle school. About 60% of the district’s teachers stayed on, along with building and office staff. The district is paying for the extended school year with money from the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, which was provided to assist schools with additional educational programming.

Gotto said Westminster Public Schools saw the biggest impact of the pandemic on literacy for kindergarten, first-, second-grade students, and an impact on the math performance for third- through eighth-graders. She said the district will look at how much kids accomplish during this 12-day period and will consider if additional learning time could be something they offer in the future.

“We’ve done after-school tutoring during the school year, but we're trying some different things during these 12 days. Going the full day with larger groups of kids — you get more engagement in that,” she said.

Westminster Public Schools will start the 2021-2022 school year on Aug. 17.