Created: 06/02/2014 6:25 PM KAALtv.com
(ABC 6 NEWS) -- For three years, they've started school in the middle of what most of us might think of as summer vacation, and now the state says they can keep doing it.
“We've been able to meet the needs of our students better using a modified calendar than we feel we did under the traditional calendar," said Sheila Berger, principal of Austin’s Sumner elementary school.
Three years ago, Sumner elementary became Austin's first year-round school, operating on a schedule of 45 days on and 15 days off.
"They, of course, use their statewide assessments so they can look at that for documentation, also" Sheila Berger explained.
Now, the state has granted Sumner a waiver from the traditional school calendar so it can continue 45-15 for three more years.
"What we're seeing consistently every year is we've been able to close the achievement gap," principal Sheila Berger said.
Sumner is now the Austin school district's most diverse school.
"We had some work to do when we first entered into the modified calendar, and we're making progress that we can attribute some of that to the calendar," Berger said.
“They went from a school at risk to a school of excellence," Austin schools superintendent David Krenz said.
Sumner had only been on the 45-15 schedule for one school year when it was named a celebration school by the Minnesota Department of Education.
"The Sumner community has worked very hard to move their achievement higher, and this is just, boy, we've done it," Krenz said.
Non-traditional school calendars are gaining popularity. Longfellow elementary in Rochester operates on a 45-15 schedule, and the Albert Lea school district is considering what it calls a "balanced calendar", which would shorten summer vacation in favor of two week breaks after each of three grading periods.
"Right now we're working hard to engage all of our families, so our focus has gone more from let's explain this new calendar an how we do business to let's get you into the school and let's work together to help your student be successful," Sumner principal Sheila Berger told ABC 6.