With the beginning of the 2006-07 school year, Timber Trail Elementary (TTE) will be moving to a year-round four-track school calendar.
TTE opened its doors with a traditional calendar in the fall of 2003. At that time, the Douglas County School District (DCSD) projected a calendar change to four-tracks by 2005.
To avoid switching to a four-track calendar last year, TTE made the decision to move the sixth grade class to Rocky Heights Middle School. Some students also switched to American Academy, the new K-8th charter school in Lone Tree. The population growth north of Castle Pines Parkway has increased to where TTE will be over capacity this fall.
Concerned about the calendar change, parents organized a committee to address the issue and any possible remedies. The committee, represented by Eric Willig and Phyllis Schwarz, met with school administrators and district officials to discuss options. The parent committee presented an option to have TTE parents raise funds to assist with addition of mobile classrooms, in lieu of the calendar change.
According to the DCSD, there is not enough property available to house the number of mobile classrooms required to accommodate the growing community. TTE was built on a parcel that is smaller than other elementary schools within the district. When DCSD committed to building TTE on this location, instead of the previous location by Coyote Ridge, they did caution that the location would be too small for mobile classrooms. The upper-limit projection for staying on a traditional schedule at TTE is 600 students with one mobile classroom. The projected enrollment for next year is 620 students.
There is no definitive answer to whether a year-round four-track calendar or traditional schedule is better educationally for children.
One key concern is the uneven boy-girl ratio created by the four-track calendar. Classes are built to meet the track request of an entire family and therefore, result in uneven ratios. Another common objection to the four-track system is from parents who have children in both elementary school and middle or high schools. Scheduling family vacations and activities can be difficult in these circumstances.
Some beneficial aspects of year-round schools can be traveling during off-peak times, less boredom in children, and information retention over the shorter break periods.
“I think most parents aren’t thrilled with going to a four-track calendar, but it is the best option we have. I’m more concerned about class size than I am about a calendar change,” said Deborah Lynch, a TTE parent.
While the calendar decision is set for next year, members of the TTE parent committee plan to stay involved in the long-range planning for CPN schools. “I only hope that DCSD will start to do some realistic future planning and meet the needs of this thriving, growing community by remembering the real issue - doing what’s best for the children in this district,” said Phyllis Schwarz, TTE parent and committee member.