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Supt. further explains idea at board meeting

June 01, 2011 - By Joe St. Henry

Special Writer for The Review

So, our kids' summer fun will not be cut short after all. Unless they want it to be.

Lake Orion Community Schools Superintendent Marion Ginopolis said at last week's Board meeting her idea of exploring year-round education, introduced in an e-mailed letter to district families earlier this month, was misconstrued by some in the community.

"Soon after the letter went out, people wrote me upset that year-round school met short summers for their kids," Ginopolis said. "That was never my intention."

Nevertheless, online community message boards immediately buzzed with comments for and against the prospect of every student going to school through the summer. Local newspapers, television and radio stations picked up on the story.

"Before you know it, the story went viral," Ginopolis said. "Unfortunately, I guess I did not explain my vision clearly enough."

According to Ginopolis, she is not suggesting the district adopt a traditional year-round schedule like that found at Carpenter Elementary School. Rather, she wants Lake Orion to take advantage of today's technology to provide students with opportunities to learn year-round.

The superintendent addressed the misconceptions and set the record straight at the May 25 school board meeting.

She thinks the school district's curriculum is strong. The problem is there is not enough time in a traditional school day and calendar year to teach everything that can be taught. As a result, Ginopolis said, students miss out on learning opportunities

"We need to look at things differently," she explained. "There are two questions to consider: should education really be confined by school calendar and does learning have to exclusively take place between four walls?"

Ginopolis specifically pointed out the need to evaluate the merit of kids taking classes online at night, over school breaks or maybe even on a snow day. For those students who prefer face-to-face instruction, they could come to school early in the mornings, on weekends or over the summer. In each case, credit could be awarded toward graduation.

"School should never be closed," she said in a follow up conversation. "We should always offer opportunities for year-round education and technology makes it possible."

The superintendent used the example of a band student who wants to take an expository writing course but cannot fit it into his or her traditional schedule due to band obligations. If the class was offered online or in-person before school, now it could be taken.

"I still think her vision is unclear considering students can already take summer classes in Lake Orion and receive credit for high school or college," said Laura Koss, a district parent. "I guess if the plan is to broaden what is available to kids on a year-round basis, that would be worth considering."

Ginopolis did point out feedback she has received on year-round learning so far has been 10-1 in favor of the idea. She is concerned, however, that this support may be for district-wide traditional year-round school on a 45 days in-class/ 15 days-off model. That is not her vision.

"That works for Carpenter families, but I know it doesn't work for everyone," she said. "That's why we're assembling a task force to look at the idea in detail. My vision is just a starting point."

More than 120 people have expressed an interest in participating in the task force, which the Superintendent said should commence activities this summer. At some point, once various year-round education options are evaluated and narrowed, Ginopolis said a survey of the community-at-large may take place to gauge its feelings on specific recommendations.

"If we conducted a survey now, I wouldn't know what to ask people," she said. "We want to give the community something real to react to later this year."

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