Posted at: 10/21/2013 5:56 PM
By: Dan Conradt

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Year-Round School Earns High Marks, Sets Sights on Future

Students and teachers around Minnesota went back to school today after last week's statewide education conference.

But for some students in our area, Monday meant the end to more than just a long weekend.

And their schedule is earning some high marks.

"Many of the teachers say they had trouble falling asleep last night," said Sumner elementary school principal Sheila Berger.

It has the feel of the beginning of a new school year...

"It's that nervous excitement to start again," Sheila Berger told us.

... because in a way, it is

"It's helped my children to not feel burned out with school," said Sumner PTC president Natalie Bunnell.

Two years ago, Sumner elementary school became the Austin school district's first year-round school, operating on a schedule of 45 days on and 15 days off. On Monday morning, the kids and staff at Sumner went back to school after their first 15 days off.

"Every parent that I talked to who's tried the calendar likes it. Every teacher likes it because they see that it works," said PTC president Natalie Bunnell. She’s the mother of three boys; two of them are students at Sumner.

“We had pleasant results on our statewide test scores, we've been able to close the achievement gap and make progress in those areas," Sumner principal Sheila Berger said.

“I think seeing day to day how your child is improving, are they finishing their homework, overall that is a better indicator of how your child is doing," added Sumner mom Natalie Bunnell.

And if the kids need help, that comes during the three week catch-up breaks.

"So if your child is struggling in September they can get a little extra help during the break in October," Natalie Bunnell explained.

And the kids retain more of what they've learned during a three week break than they do during the traditional three month break.

"We usually try to emphasize on this first day back to review some of the routine with our students, but then we're right back at it," Sumner principal Sheila Berger said.

This is the last year of a three-year waiver the state granted the Austin school district to try the 45-15 schedule at Sumner.

"I actually will be presenting to the school board in the upcoming months about considering another three year waiver," Sheila Berger said.

Sumner was named a "Celebration School" by the Minnesota Department of Education because of  improved student performance.