Andy Kim is a former GOVERNING staff writer.
Typically, the new school year starts around late August or early September. But students enrolled in select Chicago Public Schools are back at school today after a two month hiatus. In an effort to eliminate summer “learning loss,” 195 schools are enrolled in the CPS’s Track E schedule, which features a shortened summer break. The Track E schedule keeps the same number of instructional days, includes all the same holidays and shares the same last day of school with the traditional calendar. The difference is that summer vacation days are redistributed throughout the school year as a 12-day fall break and extended winter and spring breaks. School officials hope that the alternative schedule lets CPS teachers spend less time reviewing previous lessons and that the longer breaks during the school year will damper teacher- and student-burnout. Track E was introduced to the CPS system in 2007 with 18 participating schools, and has been steadily gaining momentum. The Chicago Sun Times reports that some critics worry the schedule may be problematic because students will have to attend classes in non-air conditioned rooms—and schools—in the hotter, early August days. CPS students on the traditional calendar return to school Sept. 7.