Early Monday morning, hundreds of parents walked their young students into the doors of Clark Primary and Clark Intermediate schools to kick off the 2021-22 school year in Spring ISD under the piloted Additional Days School Year (ADSY) program.
Through a grant by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), ADSY will provide elementary schools in Texas with additional half-day funding to add up to 30 additional days of school—15 days before the start of the district’s 2021-22 calendar and 15 days beyond the last day—to prevent the summer slide. Students at both the Clarks will attend school for four days a week during the summer until June 22, 2022.
Misty Sgarbi says she experienced a range of emotions as she dropped off her pre-K student at Clark Primary, stating, “I’m excited for him to be in school, but I’m also sad because that’s my baby.”
According to TEA, ADSY is designed to help students avoid learning loss over the summer and retain achievement gains they made during the previous school year. Spring ISD is currently one of eight districts in Texas participating in the Full Year Redesign option, which includes a 210-day school calendar to incorporate increased teacher planning time and student brain breaks.
Clark Primary Principal Cynthia Gomez says her school community is generally excited about having an earlier start to the school year, noting that more than 100 parents and guardians turned out to an informational session days prior to the start of school.
“This past year with COVID-19, we know that our children do have learning gaps, so for us, this is an exciting opportunity,” Gomez said. “Parents are excited, but they do have a lot of questions on why school started early. Once we explained and sent out a lot of communications on the purpose and why we’re doing [ADSY], they were really excited and agreed it was best for our children.”
In addition to the parent informational session, Gomez says her staff engaged in professional development to help prepare them for the return of students.
“Any time we get to do professional development and support our teachers, there’s clarity on what it is they will be doing,” Gomez said. “That’s one of the biggest things that we feel proud of: that we are preparing them and we are setting them up for success.”
Over at Clark Intermediate, Principal Katherine Fisher echoed her neighboring colleague, saying most of the feedback from parents has been positive.
“Our first day has been very exciting for not only our students, but for our parents and community,” Fisher said. “I’m looking forward to seeing the growth in our students and creating a positive culture here at Clark Intermediate.”
On Monday, Spring ISD Superintendent Rodney E. Watson visited Clark Intermediate and greeted teachers and students, offering encouragement for a successful school year. He said Spring ISD’s participation in the ADSY program is another way the district is putting the needs of students first.
“We’re confident these extra days of instruction, combined with a focus on giving our students ongoing support throughout the school year, will make a difference in learning outcomes,” he said. “The ADSY program is more than just a new calendar, it’s about setting up our kids for a successful school experience.”
Clark Intermediate second-grade teacher and 13-year veteran Patricia Hurts stood happily outside of her classroom door as she welcomed the arrival of her students.
“I’m excited to be back, and I know this is an iZone school implementing new programs, so I’m excited to see the growth of the students,” Hurts said. “I want to see the students succeed.”
As parents walked their children to their classrooms, parent Kyannah Bryan accompanied her Clark Intermediate second-grader to his class before walking across the street to drop off her pre-K son at Clark Primary. Bryan says although she doesn’t fully yet understand the benefits of the ADSY program, she describes having her children back in the classroom for the 2021-2022 school year as “bittersweet.”
“It was a short summer and we didn’t get to do much so I’ll miss them, although I’m glad to have them back in school,” Bryan said. “My babies have been saying all summer, ‘I want to go back to school!’ When I asked why, they said, ‘Because I want to get an education!’ If they’re happy, then I’m happy.”