Finding Balance at District 150

Anna Gross

The Peoria Public Schools Board of Education will soon make a decision about what the school year will look like—and many students have concerns.

This spring, the Peoria Public School (PPS) Board of Education is making a pivotal decision. It is voting on its administration’s proposal to adopt a Balanced Calendar beginning in the 2023-2023 school year. This would shorten the traditional summer, spreading learning across a year-round calendar. Summer break would last one month, and learning would occur throughout the year for 45-day periods followed by intermittent two-week breaks. I spoke with PPS students about this proposal, encountering many who were unaware that it was being considered. After collecting signatures for a petition against the balanced calendar, I learned that around 90% of those students were, like me, opposed to the new schedule. Many of us have serious concerns about how a schedule change would impact the community.

According to the Peoria Public Schools District 150 (D150) website, the impetus for suggesting a Balanced Calendar is to provide extra instruction for students who are behind due to at-home learning. Covid-related learning is a valid concern, as is the reality that many D150 students were behind before the pandemic. However, is a large-scale change to the D150 calendar the best solution for helping students get back on track?

Jackie Hoyle, a Richwoods High School sophomore stated, “I find the Balanced Calendar unfair because the board has shown no research or proof as to why they think it is beneficial to students.” A closer look at articles that D150 has posted on its website proves this theory. In fact, most research shared does not favor the Balanced Calendar. As documented on the D150 website, the Education Advisory Board surmises that a Balanced Calendar does little to address learning gaps, noting: “Studies that assess the effectiveness of year-round schools yield inconclusive evidence that year round schools improve academic performance.”

A downfall of the Balanced Calendar is that it omits aspects of summer that students cherish. Richwoods High School freshman Adam Pham states, “The traditional long summer break helps students reset their minds and stress levels, also allowing students to participate in summer activities like camp or sports.” And one of my concerns, shared by many students, is that the Balanced Calendar prevents teenagers from getting summer jobs. Many rely on money made from summer work to pay for college.

Switching to a Balanced Calendar “doesn’t encourage students to take higherlevel classes and be student athletes,” observes Richwoods junior Katy Wales. A shorter summer keeps athletes from attending sports camps and working on their skills on the off season. Many camps important to students are only offered during summer months.

Shortened breaks occurring every 45 days raise another issue: day care for younger students. It’s easier to secure childcare for longer periods of time. Few childcare facilities accommodate such schedules. The proposed Balanced Calendar will leave caregivers scrambling to find care for their kids at random times throughout the year.

In order to address learning loss, a better plan would be to offer high quality tutoring within the traditional school calendar, as well as learning programs over the summer. This would help students in need, while also facilitating participation in the traditional summer break activities. Until then, many questions remain about the future D150 balanced calendar. How will the district impart research-driven evidence that a calendar change would close the learning gap? Will the administration take into account students’ opinions on this issue? The answers remain to be seen.

About Anna Gross

Anna Gross is a freshman in the pre-international baccalaureate program at Richwoods High School. She is involved in tennis, choir, and the Student Leadership Team. In her free time, Anna likes to sing, dance, read, and bake. During the summer of 2020 she wrote, filmed, and directed a movie with her neighbors. She also took online dance and theater classes taught by Broadway performers. Having performed in several community theater shows over the years, she is looking forward to getting back to the stage 

when it is safe. 

Art by Aryanne Westfall

Aryanne “Ary” Westfall is a sophomore at Bradley University majoring in Animation and minoring in Theatre Arts. She is pursuing a career as a storyboard artist and enjoys creating graphic novels in her free time. As a member of the Digital Art Team, Westfall spends her time connecting with other artists and creating as much as she can.