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Letter to the editor


Schools launch Project 21-- year-long learning



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July 06, 2011 - Last Wednesday, over 65 enthusiastic parents, community members, and a few students attended the first meeting of what is now dubbed Project 21 -- year-long learning. The purpose of the meeting was to solicit participation in developing a plan to provide learning opportunities for our students to meet the challenges of the 21st century that are not restricted by time and location.

Like most districts in Michigan, Lake Orion students attend school between 176-181 days a year; 176 days in grades K-5, 180 days in grades 6-10 & 12 and 181 days in grade 11, averaging 179 days each year. Subtracting this average along with 104 weekend days from the 365-day calendar year leaves 82 days (56 of which are in the summer) when students are not in school - almost half of the time they are in school!

Project 21 is NOT about creating a year-round school schedule of the same number of days students are in school spaced throughout the year. Traditional year-round schedules like that of Lake Orion's Carpenter Elementary School merely reorganize and balance the school year across twelve months to provide more continuous learning by breaking up the long summer vacation into shorter, more frequent vacations throughout the year.

Rather, Project 21 is about creating year-long learning opportunities focusing on 21st century skill development anytime/anywhere; learning that is unrestricted by a September-June calendar within the four walls of a school building.

There are two significant reasons for expanding learning opportunities for students to be successful in this rapidly changing world:

1. 3 Rs - Increased academic requirements as a result of the implementation of the common core curriculum (knowledge/skills students should have so that they will graduate high school fully prepared for college/careers.)

2. 7 Cs - Need to develop broader competencies of essential 21st century skills

Critical thinking & problem solving

Creativity

Communication

Collaboration & leadership

Cross cultural understanding

Career learning and self reliance

Computing and Information Commication Technology literacy (ITC)

3 R's x 7 C's = Project 21 ? year-long learning

The task force is now charged with developing a year-long learning plan focusing on 21st century skill developed. Subcommittees will be created to identify opportunities for students at each level (elementary, middle, and high school) indicating when and where these could occur.

A fourth subcommittee will look at ways to support these initiatives through community resource partnerships and creative financing possibilities. This committee will also examine ways to enhance revenue for the district; one of which might be extending participation in Project 21 learning opportunities to other district students on a fee-based schedule.

An ambitious but not set-in-stone time-line will have subcommittees working over the next several months with a recommendation to the LO Board of Education by the end of December 2011. Depending on work completion, implementation of Project 21 could occur as early as the fall of 2012.

Anyone interested in serving on one of the four subcommittees (elementary school, middle school, high school, and resources/revenue enhancement) is asked to complete an online survey indicating his/her preference of subcommittees.

The link is located on the Lake Orion Community Schools Website at www.lakeorion.k12.mi.us.

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