All Year Montessori
After careful consideration and months researching year round academic calendars used throughout the lower 48, we paved new way for Alaska educational experiences in the fall of 2014 when we implemented a year round academic calendar for all ages.
The All Year Montessori (AYM) program provides families with consistent academic support year round with frequent, but shorter breaks well suited to enrichment activities or family travel. Spruce Tree follows a pattern of approximately 7-9 weeks on / 2 weeks off template providing five academic sessions averaging 8 weeks in length; each session followed by a 2-week break August through June. School holidays include Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, the day after Thanksgiving, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents’ Day, and Memorial Day. (Christmas, New Year’s and Independence Day fall during scheduled breaks.) There are six calendared staff professional development and/or in-service days throughout the year: two around the holiday break, two days mid-March, and one around each of our two parent-teacher conferences weeks.
Director Sabrina Binkley shared her excitement for the concept at a parent meeting on June 11, 2014 saying, “Part of our mission is to be a resource for families. This All Year Montessori (AYM) program makes sense for today’s parents. However, the academic benefits, particularly at the elementary level, are what make the program so attractive to Spruce Tree staff. Teachers working in schools following a year-round calendar (both public and private) report that students retain greater amounts of information and achieve greater depth of knowledge when long summer breaks are omitted. Fewer hours spent on review translates into more time for students to enjoy lessons on new curriculum. Educators and parents alike realize that “summer learning loss” as well as “the burnout factor” are real. An all year calendar significantly reduces, and in some cases virtually eliminates, learning loss and provides students and staff with all-important breaks at opportune times. Additionally, the program offers consistency of routine and environment for families with its enrichment camp offerings during the two weeks breaks, taught by familiar faces (teachers) in a familiar place (school). This calendar gives new meaning to the “3 R’s” — we’re talking about reflection, rejuvenation and reorganization.”
In recognition of the importance of breaks, Dr. Sasha Ericksen, local psychiatrist and Spruce Tree parent commented, “Breaks are essential to the learning process, and help consolidate knowledge and foster creativity. Shorter, more frequent breaks provide students, staff and parents the time needed to reflect and recharge.”
The investment in year round education is real when it comes to the value of time. Our AYM calendar offers 187 days of school, which is 17 more than the state minimum*. Spruce Tree students enjoy a 7-hour school day, 8:30 am – 3:30 pm, which translates into 204 more hours of equivalent instruction (than the traditional public school calendar offers) over the course of the year. Extended day programming options are offered during the academic sessions as well.
Optional “Break Camp” programming is offered during the Fall, Winter and Spring Break intersessions at school, and Summer Break Camp is offered for Spruce Tree students at the Fairbanks Children’s Museum. During camp weeks, Spruce Tree camp teachers transform our library, outdoor playscape and gym for relaxed enrichment… creative, inquiry-based, active days… to inspire kids to follow paths less traveled during our regular academic sessions. Break Camps not only provide added value for your family but give your child the break from academics he/she needs in a familiar environment.