Year-round school experiment ends in Federal Way

When President Barack Obama stated earlier this fall that there should be more schooling, longer hours and a longer school year, it brought up questions about the benefits of year-round school.

The Federal Way School District has had its own experience with year-round school: Sunnycrest Elementary was year-round for more than a decade, moving to a modified calendar in the mid-1990s.

The move was done after the district did a comprehensive study of year-round schooling from 1989 to 1991, Superintendent Tom Murphy said. That same study brought about year-round schooling to Sunnycrest, and also a slightly modified calendar to Illahee Middle School. The district looked at the use of year-round schooling in California, which was meant to relieve overcrowding. It was also meant to help children in poverty and whose first language was not English, since there are shorter school breaks with the schedule, Murphy said.

However, this year Sunnycrest moved back to a schedule that followed the rest of the district.

The district said the decision came from an academic standpoint, bringing consistency with the other schools.

A big issue in the district was the mobility of the students within the district. Students commonly change schools as their families move around within the district. Having one school that did not follow the same classroom schedule caused some gaps for transfer students.

The district revisited the issue as part of its District Improvement Plan, a plan the district had to design after failing to meet Adequate Yearly Progress on testing scores for more than two years.

By making the school’s calendar consistent with the rest of the district, Sunnycrest’s staff is able to attend instructional training in curriculum that previously they were unable to do on a consistent basis, spokeswoman Deb Stenberg said.