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The Marion School District will again utilize its innovative “hybrid” academic calendar for the 2022-23 school year, following approval of the plan by the district’s school board Thursday night.

The hybrid calendar spreads out the school year, trimming time from summer vacation and adding two-week rejuvenation breaks after each nine weeks. Students and teachers will still have a seven-week summer break, but they will also get two-week breaks in the fall, winter, and spring. The number of days of instruction will remain unchanged at 178.

The district implemented the hybrid calendar for the first time for the current school year. The move has been popular for staff and families alike.

“The response we’ve gotten to our new calendar this year has been incredibly positive,” said Hugh Inman, deputy superintendent for the Marion School District. “Our students got a head start on almost every other district in the state. And we’ve heard from countless teachers and families who loved the Fall Break. Many others are looking forward to the extended Spring Break in March. It’s a win-win for everyone involved. It benefits our students’ academic progress; it helps our teachers stay refreshed and effective; it gives our maintenance team great opportunities to make sure our facilities remain in top shape.”

The idea behind the hybrid calendar is to ease what educators call the “summer slide.” According to research, students often lose up to 40 percent of what they have learned during the previous year during extended summer breaks. That number can be reduced as much as 22 percent when students are not exposed to a long summer vacation.

The breaks after each nine weeks, meanwhile, provide students the opportunity to absorb what they have learned and to take time to rest and renew. For teachers, it’s a chance to evaluate their students’ greatest needs for the next nine weeks. With hybrid school calendars, discipline issues tend to decline, graduation rates rise, and greater academic growth is experienced.

In September and October, when the district had its Fall Break, many families and staff members took advantage of the time off to spend time with family and travel. Hannah Emerson, a district paraprofessional who works at Marion Visual & Performing Arts Magnet, said her family used the time at Fall Break to visit friends in Mississippi and prepare for a move to a new house.

“Overall, it was a great Fall Break,” she said. “We’re so appreciative that our district chose the new schedule. It gives us more time to spend as a family doing the things we love to do!”

For Elizabeth Gill, a teacher at Marion Junior High School, Fall Break provided a unique opportunity to vacation at a different time of the year.

“My husband and I were able to tour the New England states during our Fall Break,” Gill said. “It was the perfect weather -- the leaves were beautiful, and it wasn’t crowded at all. I love our new school schedule and I was recharged and ready to start the second 9 weeks.”

Under the hybrid calendar, the first day of the 2022-23 school year for Marion students will be Monday, July 25, 2022. Other key dates for students are as follows:

  • Fall Break: September 26-October 7
  • Thanksgiving Holiday: November 21-25
  • Winter Break: December 19-January 2
  • Spring Break: March 13-27
  • MHS Graduation: Thursday, May 25, 2023 (7 p.m.) 

Inman said he regularly takes phone calls from administrators at other school districts in Arkansas who want to learn more about the hybrid calendar. Several districts are looking closely at making the change over the next several years, he said.

“Not only has the hybrid calendar proved to be a popular choice, but we are confident that it will result in improved educational outcomes as well,” Inman said. “In the coming years, I expect we will see several other districts in the state follow our lead in making this change.”