The year-round calendar at Ralston's Mockingbird Elementary School will come to an end with the close of the school year.
Ralston officials said dwindling enrollment, complex scheduling logistics and no measurable difference in attendance or achievement were the reasons for canceling the year-round schooling, which began in 2004.
Although the Ralston school district is facing financial trouble, including staff cuts, the decision was not motivated by any financial factors, said Kristi Gibbs, assistant superintendent for learning. The year-round calendar has operated alongside the traditional calendar without additional budget expenditures in its nine years.
“We're seeing that it's not how you rearrange time but how you use the time,” Gibbs said.
“We are continuously looking at data and re-evaluating, and in looking at the optional calendar, it was clear it wasn't giving us the intended results.”
In the last three school years, enrollment in the program has declined steadily — from 147 students in 2010-2011, to 140 students in 2011-2012, to just 80 students this year.
No students enrolled in year-round kindergarten this year. The average class size for the remaining six grades — with just one section of students — was 13, compared with an average class size of 18 on the school's traditional calendar, where each grade has at least two sections.
Gibbs and Mockingbird Principal Kathy Boeve said the situation was not ideal for teachers to work together and to balance class sizes.
“The equity just wasn't there, when you looked at the classrooms on both the optional and traditional calendars,” Boeve said.
Boeve said the declining enrollment partly stems from Mockingbird being Ralston's only year-round school. When older siblings moved to the middle school, parents often moved younger students to the regular calendar, Boeve said.
“It just makes sense for scheduling,” she said.
Boeve said many parents were sad about the decision. “But I think they saw the declining class size and were kind of prepared for it.”
In February 2011, Ralston also considered eliminating the year-round schedule. But parents and teachers defended the program's merits.
The Ralston school board agreed to continue the program for last school year and this year.
Boeve said it's possible the district could revisit the program after more research.
“No door is completely shut,” she said. “We want to do what's best for kids. If we look at this again and find a way, maybe it could happen.”