Embracing the 11-Month Academic Calendar

Embracing the 11-Month Academic Calendar

Summer vacation is a beloved tradition. Students look forward to these three months with no school, meaning more time to participate in camps, play sports and spend time with friends. Summer vacation is considered the norm for most families. At Spero, however, we understand that what’s typical for some families isn’t typical for all, especially families who have a student with academic, social, or emotional concerns. We pride ourselves on serving students with disabilities and we have found the most effective way for us to do that is through an 11-month academic calendar. Yes, that means school all-year-long, except for the month of July.

An 11-month academic calendar has been important to us since Spero was founded in 2004. This schedule is rooted in our mission to offer individualized education to each of our students and serve them to the best of our abilities, helping ensure their success for the future. Three months out of the classroom is a long break for any child, and for students with individualized education plans, this break presents particular challenges when it comes to retention. By keeping our students in the classroom 11 months out of the year, our goal is continuous progress for our students.

Structure of our Schedule

While we have always maintained an 11-month calendar, the structure has changed over time to best fit the needs of our students, families and teachers. Initially, we had classes Monday through Friday, and would take week-long breaks throughout the year. After maintaining this schedule for a few years, we found that even a full week out of the classroom was a significant amount of time for our students, and we would see some regression in their learning. Teachers would notice that they would need to repeat lesson plans or re-teach concepts that were covered right before the break. Additionally, it was a challenge for the parents of our students to find childcare for week-long breaks throughout the year.

In 2007, we shifted to our current model with class Monday through Thursday every week, no class for the month of July, a two-week holiday break for Christmas and the New Year, and a week-long break for spring. This schedule allows for very few extended periods outside the classroom, supporting continuous progress of our students. Additionally, we have gotten positive feedback from parents and families who say that it’s much easier to find childcare just one day per week, not to mention more affordable than a full three months off for summer. This schedule also allows us to host all-staff training days on Fridays, minimizing random days off school or with a substitute teacher.

Managing Summer Restlessness

It’s no surprise that when the sunny days of June roll around, many of our students start getting restless. But we have planned accordingly. During this time of the year, we place a major focus on enrichment. We want to make it exciting for our kids to be in the classroom. Special guest visitors this month range from furry friends from the Como Zoo to Native American dance performers. Additionally, we host Field Day and a school concert in June. These enrichment days keep our students motivated and excited to come to Spero during a month when some of their other friends may not have school.

Overall, the 11-month academic calendar is something that we are very proud of at Spero, and it’s just another thing that we know sets us apart from other elementary school options in the Twin Cities. Like everything we do, we made the decision to maintain this schedule with our students as our number one priority.