Making Up for Lost Time

Dallas ISD gives schools options for longer calendars to address learning loss

When many students haven’t been in a brick-and-mortar schoolroom in a year, how do you plan to make up for the inevitable learning loss?

For Dallas ISD, the answer was to take a good hard look at the school calendar. Could some students and schools benefit from a longer school year? Could some benefit from a shift in their school day? 

In February, the board of trustees voted to approve a 175-day base calendar, an intersession calendar, and a school-day redesign calendar. The latter two could add days to the school calendar, depending on interest of teachers and families.

The district said that roughly 16,000 and 14,000 called in to tele-town halls to get more information, another 11,000 were also contacted.

“Essentially, everyone who will participate will opt in to this process — based on feedback from parents, teachers and staff,” deputy chief of academics Derek Little explained.

“If you’re running a marathon, you don’t wait until the end of the marathon to drink your water – you have water stations all along the route.”

Derek Little

An intersession calendar would add 21 days of instruction to the school year with five one-week sessions. Students that need assistance would be invited to participate in those weeks, which would be offered in August, September, November, February, and June. Both students and teachers could opt-in or out.

The intersession calendar, Little said, is exciting because it allows the district to intercede throughout the school year, looking for learning gaps and addressing them in near real-time, as opposed to summer school, where a student doesn’t get a chance to catch up or remediate until after the school year is done.

“If you’re running a marathon, you don’t wait until the end of the marathon to drink your water – you have water stations all along the route,” he said. “And that’s what intersession is.”

The school day redesign calendar would add anywhere from 23 to 28 extra days, and those dates would not be optional. Teachers and staff could have more flexibility during the school day.

So far only two schools have indicated interest.

If parents find their school has switched to the intersession or school-day redesign calendars and they don’t wish to do that, Little told trustee Dustin Marshall they could transfer.

“They can transfer to any school?” Marshall asked.

“They may not be able to transfer to their first choice school, but they can transfer to a school,” Little said, explaining that the usual district policy on transfers would be in place – meaning that a school that was already full would not be able to take new transfers.

“I think this is a very innovative solution,” Marshall said. “I do have some concerns about it. When we make this level of change, it’s going to be very challenging for us to foresee all of the nuances and repercussions of such an overhaul.”

Little said that the effort to hear from more parents and teachers would continue.

“We are committed to getting as close to 100 percent of teachers and staff and parents to weigh in on this as possible,” he said.

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at

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