Balanced Calendar Initiative
This initiative is intended to support public school districts, tribal compact schools, and charter schools in exploring the feasibility and effectiveness of a student-centered balanced school calendar in their school districts with the goal of positively impacting student learning and success.
Using federal emergency relief funds, OSPI provided temporary funding to public school districts, regional educational service districts, state-tribal education compact schools, and charter schools to explore increasing student learning opportunities. The goal of this program was to shrink summer learning loss by balancing or modifying school year calendars.
2023-24 Learning & Networking Opportunities
Click on Events to learn more and register.
In Washington state, a traditional school year lasts 180 days, with a few short breaks along the way and a long break in the summer. Research shows that students who have consistent access to enriching activities throughout the year are more successful in school. Families in low-income communities often do not have the same access to enrichment. They rely on schools to provide supplemental instruction — if they can — during extended vacation periods to maintain students’ academic progress.
What if we could reimagine the school calendar in a way that supports all students to improve and equalize academic achievement? Consider the “balanced” calendar.
What is a balanced calendar?
Instead of concentrating 180 school days into nine months, a balanced calendar spreads them throughout the year. Schools may use the breaks to host “intersessions,” where they can provide additional learning experiences if needed.
Does it work?
Schools that follow a balanced calendar tend to have higher achievement scores (Pedersen, 2016). A traditional summer break lasts 10 to 12 weeks, compared to 5 to 7 weeks in a balanced calendar. Shorter breaks mean more consistent student-teacher partnerships and less learning disruption. Students need less review time at the beginning of the new school year so there is an embedded opportunity for expansion of curriculum and learning experiences.
Does it mean more school?
Balanced calendars usually keep the same number of school days as traditional calendars, but they add flexibility. With input and feedback from families, education leaders decide what is best for their local community. Teachers who work in a balanced calendar have reported that it is easier to plan instruction in shorter chunks between breaks rather than for a full semester (Pedersen, 2016). In addition, ending the first semester, trimester, or second quarter before winter break creates more energy and readiness for students and teachers when they return (Hasser & Nasser, 2005).
What is an intersession?
There are times when additional school days make sense. These additional days, called intersessions, can be added to the school calendar to provide opportunities for more student learning and enrichment. All additional workdays are collectively bargained to determine how the days will be allocated and how teachers and support staff will be compensated.
OCTOBER 11, 2023 at 4:00 – 6:00pm - Fall Balanced Calendar Virtual Summit
- Braided funding models
- Working with communities and special interest groups
- Student voice in developing a balanced calendar
- Intersession materials and strategies
- The journey of exploring a balanced calendar
- Balanced calendar research and Washington case studies
- Balanced calendar “101”
- Data and the balanced calendar
NOVEMBER 14, 2023 at 4:00 – 5:30pm
- Living and Working in a Balanced Calendar School
- Engaging Student Voices in the Balanced Calendar
JANUARY 16, 2024 at 4:00 – 5:30pm
- Building a Balanced Calendar: Days, Hours, Intersessions, and More!
- Creating Effective Intercessions
FEBRUARY 13, 2024 at 4:00 – 5:30pm
- Working with School Boards
- Working with Classified Groups
MARCH 12, 2024 at 4:00 – 5:30pm
- WEA, Educator Panel
- Impact of a Balanced Calendar on Co-curricular Activities
APRIL 16, 2024 at 4:00 – 5:30pm
- Working outside the School District Walls
- Intercession Implementation
MAY 14, 2024 at 4:00 – 5:30pm
- Sustaining a Balanced Calendar
Feb – March: Annual Spring Book Studies
Annual book studies bring together school/districts teams of administrators, educators, and staff in learning communities to dive deeper into exploring modified school year calendars. More information on the Spring 2024 book studies to come in late Fall 2023.
October 12-13, 2022 - Statewide Balanced Calendar Fall Summit
12/16/21 - Webinar: The Board’s Role in Exploring a Balanced Calendar
May 2021 - Statewide Balanced Calendar Summit
Event included keynotes from State Superintendent Reykdal, Senator Curtis King, and David Hornak from the National Association for Year-Round Education – Video Library
Frequently Asked Questions
If our district accepts balanced calendar grant dollars from OSPI, are we required to change our school year calendar?
No. The purpose of the grant is to provide school districts with the opportunity to study a balanced calendar approach. If districts go through the study phase and decide not to modify their school year calendars, that’s OK.
What about students…
…in foster care or experiencing homelessness?
Students in foster care or experiencing homelessness are eligible to receive support through several state and federal programs. These students often have disruptions in their education which can make it difficult for them to be on target for graduation. A balanced calendar can provide additional opportunities for credit accrual and recovery, as well as interrupt the effects of cumulative learning loss in developing individual school graduation plans.
Students with disabilities may not have access to highly specialized resources (occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech and language specialists, adaptive equipment) during long summer breaks. Transition services, such as job shadows, can take place during intersessions without taking the student out of classroom instruction.
When interventions take place at the end of each summative period, there is evidence of a reduction of students needing Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or qualifying for special education services over time (Smith, 2011; Evans, 2007).
…who are migratory?
When migrant students move between districts with traditional and balanced calendars, the state’s Migrant Education program provides supplemental academic help as well as secondary credit accrual and exchange.
…in off-campus school programs?
For students in Running Start or who are learning a trade, consider local community college and skill center schedules for potential impacts on students participating in those programs part-time.
…in advanced programs, like AP or IB?
A balanced calendar can provide an opportunity for involvement in special projects and targeted learning opportunities. When considering calendar modifications, schools should take into account the program design and testing schedules for Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and Cambridge International programs.
What should schools consider when exploring school year calendar changes?
Communication and community engagement
Identify and engage key stakeholders early, including educator groups, families, students, and community partners. Thoughtful communication and engagement can go a long way toward establishing common ground and creating transparency in the process and decision-making. Communicate with families about how changes to the school calendar may affect existing practices and schedules for report cards and student conferences.
Use of instructional time
Intersessions can be used to support continuous forward momentum for all students. Schools should consider how to make use of time for supplementary opportunities to learn as intervention or enrichment.
Collective bargaining agreements
Identify areas that need to be addressed with current local bargaining agreements and work collaboratively to problem-solve and negotiate to reach a consensus with all impacted bargaining units. In general, the school year calendar agreed to during the collective bargaining process will also determine when report cards and student conferences occur.
Educator and staff support
Transitioning to a balanced calendar requires some rethinking of instructional time and the scope/sequence of instruction and intervention supports for students. Throughout the planning and exploration process, districts should work closely with their instructional staff and teams to identify where support is needed and proactively factor this support into the transition process and collective bargaining agreements, as necessary.
Child care, after-school care, and parenting agreements
Connect with families and community partners early, including child care providers. Gather their feedback about the prospect of a school year calendar change. Some families have shared that it is easier to budget for six weeks of care in the summer with periodic week breaks throughout the school year, than it is to pay for care for 10 to 12 consecutive weeks during a traditional summer break (Flaminio Interview, 2022). Some child care providers have cited the shift to a balanced calendar has offered a growth opportunity for their business (Ballinger & Kneese, 2006).
In the exploration process, include families who operate under a parenting agreement or who are in single-parent households. In some cases, a balanced calendar may provide more opportunities for equity in shared custody arrangements, especially where one parent has custody during the school year, while the other has custody during summer break.
What about high school sports?
High school athletics are often viewed as a barrier due to scheduling challenges, but conflicts can be mitigated. For decades, school districts across the nation have successfully supported interscholastic sports among schools with different school year calendars. In fact, the modern balanced calendar has ties back to the 1890s. Washington’s Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) has successfully navigated a variety of school year calendars. Despite changes in leadership, WIAA has stated their support of allowing districts to determine the right school year calendar for their students and communities.
What about school meals?
The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) may be operated on planned educational days. Enrolled students attending on-campus, educational activities are eligible to participate and may receive one breakfast and one lunch daily. Meals must meet the NSLP and SBP Meal Pattern requirements and are reimbursed at the school’s NSLP and SBP rate. Schools must count and claim meals according to a student’s approved eligibility status unless they are participating in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) or Provision 2. An application and calendar must be submitted within the Washington Integrated Nutrition System (WINS) for the participating schools and planned educational days at the beginning of each school year. Local Education Agencies (LEAs) should contact their assigned School Meal Programs Specialist with any questions.
The AESD is one of several statewide organizations partnering with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to implement their Balanced Calendar Initiative. OSPI’s state and federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds are financing this initiative.
Articles and Reports
- Washington schools among those experimenting with year-round school, The Center Square, June 2023
- Winlock School District Adopts Modified Calendar for Next Three School Years, The Chronicle, July, 2022
- Why Balance the 180-Day School Calendar Year? Association of Washington School Principals, WashingtonPrincipal, Volume 3 – 2021-22
Balanced Calendar Videos
Watch the most recent video presentation.
OSPI District Grantees, Contacts & Grant Information
Western Region (ESDs 113, 112, 114, 121, 189)
Regional Contact: Sharon Bower
- Bremerton (22-23)
- Chimicum (22-23)
- Crescent (21-22 & 22-23)
- Elma (21-22 & 22-23)
- Lopez Island (21-22 & 22-23)
- Mossyrock (22-23)
- Mount Vernon (21-22 & 22-23)
- North Mason (21-22)
- North Thurston (21-22)
- Oakville (21-22 & 22-23)
- Olympia (21-22 & 22-23)
- Port Angeles (22-23)
- Port Townsend (22-23)
- Rainier Valley Leadership Academy (21-22 & 22-23)
- Skykomish (22-23)
- Toledo (22-23)
- Vancouver (21-22)
- Winlock (21-22 & 22-23)
Central Region (ESDs 105 & 171)
Regional Contact: Jeanette Ozuna
- Cashmere (21-22)
- Goldendale (22-23)
- Highland (21-22 & 22-23)
- Kittitas (21-22 & 22-23)
- Mount Adams (21-22 & 22-23)
- Roosevelt (22-23)
- Selah (21-22)
- Soap Lake (21-22 & 22-23)
- Thorp (21-22 & 22-23)
- Toppenish (21-22 & 22-23)
- Union Gap (21-22 & 22-23)
- Wahluke (21-22 & 22-23)
- Yakima (21-22 & 22-23)
Eastern Region (ESDs 123 & 101)
Regional Contact: Susan Bell
- Asotin-Anatone (22-23)
- Benge (21-22)
- Candy Mountain Academy (21-22 & 22-23)
- Chewelah (22-23)
- Columbia (Walla Walla) (21-22 & 22-23)
- Finley (21-22 & 22-23)
- Freeman (22-23)
- Kahlotus (22-23)
- Kiona-Benton (22-23)
- Paterson (22-23)
- Pomeroy (22-23)
- Prescott (22-23)
- Touchet (22-23)
- Waitsburg (22-23)
Balanced Calendar Grant Funding
Due to limited availability of funding resources, the Balanced Calendar Initiative will not be funded in the 2023–25 biennium.
OSPI, the Association of Educational Service Districts, and other partners will be working together in the coming months to identify ways to move this project forward without the use of federal pandemic funds.