At an informational meeting March 11 at the district administration building, Warren Consolidated Schools Superintendent Robert Livernois talks about the need to move Siersma and Holden year-round elementary schools back to the traditional calendar next year.

At an informational meeting March 11 at the district administration building, Warren Consolidated Schools Superintendent Robert Livernois talks about the need to move Siersma and Holden year-round elementary schools back to the traditional calendar next year.

Photo by Sarah Purlee


Siersma and Holden to return to traditional calendar

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published March 15, 2019

WARREN/STERLING HEIGHTS — After six years of Siersma and Holden elementary schools operating on a year-round calendar, Warren Consolidated Schools officials have decided to return both buildings to the traditional schedule beginning in the 2019-20 school year.

The school board is scheduled to be presented March 20 with a formal resolution to convert the year-round calendar to the traditional calendar effective next school year.

According to school officials, having the two elementaries on different calendars has not been cost effective. Siersma is located in Warren; Holden is in Sterling Heights. A meeting was held March 11 at the administration building, in which Superintendent Robert Livernois shared information on the matter. School board members Brian White, Susan Trombley and Carl Weckerle were at the meeting, along with a few administrators.

“We have an efficiency problem in our schools,” Livernois said. One issue, he said, is that about 100 families left Holden who didn’t want to participate in the year-round calendar, which has caused the building to be underutilized. According to school officials, Holden currently has the lowest population in the district.

As of the winter 2019 count, Holden had an enrollment of 289 students; Siersma had 442. The district hopes that more families will return to Holden once it goes back to the traditional calendar, which school officials said would increase revenue.

“We had some sincere hopes of building the capacity of this program,” Livernois said. “None of that really materialized. It’s causing us to have to put them back on a traditional calendar to better use the space we have. There were some added costs in transportation. There are some employees that work an extra month.”

WCS receives $9,240 in per-pupil funding from the state. At the meeting, Livernois could not comment on how much money the district would save by moving Siersma and Holden back as traditional schools.

Year-round, also known as a balanced calendar, includes the same number of school days as traditional schools, but the days are organized differently. Summer vacation, for instance, is six weeks long in year-round schools, as opposed to 12 weeks in a traditional calendar. Classes begin in August, rather than September.

Year-round proponents say the concept improves student achievement because it reduces the time that teachers spend during the first part of the school year reviewing curriculum from the previous year. Additional claims include that children will retain what they learned over the summer because the break is much shorter, and students are engaged in their education all year long.

School officials also said the timing of the breaks for the year-round students — known as intersessions — conflicts with the standardized Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress, or M-STEP, testing. Another factor that Livernois discussed was the state’s third-grade reading and retention law that goes into effect during the 2019-20 school year. He said the year-round calendar does not allow enough time for the district to provide decisions for families who may appeal the state’s decision to retain a student.

In April 2013, the school board voted unanimously to pilot the year-round calendar program at Siersma, Holden and Fillmore elementary schools. Families not in favor of the year-round calendar were able to “opt out,” and families at district schools not chosen to become year-round were able to “opt in.” Because of a decrease in enrollment, Fillmore closed as an elementary school in June 2015 and students were relocated to Black Elementary School in Sterling Heights.

The Fillmore building is currently housing the district’s English Second Learners Department. In addition, the city of Sterling Heights Parks and Recreation program is using the building while its Recreation Center is being worked on.

Some who attended the meeting were not in favor of moving back to the traditional calendar schedule. Edy Olow, who is the Siersma Parent Teacher Organization treasurer, said her family moved into the neighborhood so her children could attend a year-round school.

“It was one of the reasons we bought our house. They’re getting a phenomenal education at Siersma. I was raised in Europe. The world is on a year-round schedule except for the United States,” she said, adding that 12 weeks off in the summer “is too long.” “It’s just so sad finances are trumping the kids’ welfare.”

Olow, who is considering taking her children out of the district and putting them in a year-round school elsewhere, doesn’t feel that school officials did enough to tell families about the program.

“They should have done more advertising,” she said. “I don’t think they sold the idea. This is what makes Warren Consolidated stand out.”

Kristen Cordle lives in the Warren Woods Public Schools district but enrolled her son at Siersma. Her two other children are not yet in school, but she had planned to send them to Siersma as well.

“I picked Siersma because of the year-round program and the staff,” she said. “I like that the staff is very close.”

Cordle, who is trained in secondary education, believes students hit a learning wall and that the balanced calendar allows breaks at the right times.

“You can only learn so much,” she said. “The breaks allow time to refresh as opposed to getting frustrated, acting out and getting in trouble.”

Another parent spoke up at the meeting saying she also likes the year-round program, but understands why the change needs to be made.

An update on the year-round program, along with frequently asked questions about the conversion, can be found at the district’s website, www.wcs.k12.mi.us.