Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions


The Olympia School District is exploring the idea of a balanced calendar.


Below is a list of frequently asked questions about balanced calendar. This webpage will be updated frequently, so please check back for updates. We also encourage you to email us questions you would like answered. Email your questions to [email protected]

What is a balanced calendar?
A balanced calendar would modify the traditional 180-day school calendar to keep the learning process more continuous. Instead of a calendar dominated by a very long summer break, students would have more periodic, longer breaks throughout the school year and a shorter summer break.

Students attending schools that follow a balanced calendar receive the same number of instructional days and hours as those who attend schools that follow a traditional calendar.

What is “intersession programming”?
Intersession programming is another way of describing learning opportunities, such as support/acceleration or enrichment activities, that could be offered during school breaks.

Why is Olympia School District exploring the idea of a balanced calendar?
In the 2021 Legislative Session, the Washington State Legislature directed $200 million in a combination of state and federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) exclusively for learning recovery. The balanced calendar initiative is part of this overall $200 million.

Olympia is one of dozens of school districts across the state that received a $75,000 grant to assist in exploring a balanced calendar.

Learn more about the grant to support the study of a balanced calendar

Are any other school districts in the region exploring balanced calendar?

In the 2021-22 school year, neighboring North Thurston Public Schools (NTPS) formed a balanced calendar committee to explore the development and implementation of a balanced calendar. In May 2022, the committee recommended to its board of directors that the district remain on a traditional calendar. While NTPS will remain on a traditional calendar for 2022-23 school year, the committee stated in its final report to the school board that it is open to future consideration of a balanced calendar. The calendars of surrounding districts, and evolving research on the impacts on student achievement, are all factors that could contribute to additional study, the report stated.


Olympia has also been in close contact with other Thurston County school districts about the research underway on this topic.

Who is researching information about balanced calendar?
A Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) made up of students, staff, families and community members explored balanced calendar in the 2021-22 school year. The CAC held its first meeting on balanced calendar in December 2021. Co-facilitators were Olympia School Board Director Scott Clifthorne and OSD parent Sandy Hallstrom. CAC meeting agendas and summaries, as well as links to the committee’s research, are posted on the Balanced Calendar webpage.


A Balanced Calendar Steering Committee made up of six members selected by the superintendent began meeting on August 18, 2022. The committee meetings are facilitated by Ideal Communications. Steering Committee meeting summaries are posted on the Balanced Calendar webpage under the “Steering Committee Meeting Summaries” heading.


The Balanced Calendar Steering Committee coordinates the work of a larger 40-50 person “Balanced Calendar Exploratory Committee” (BCEC), which was formed in fall 2022 and is made up of staff, parents, community partners and other interested parties representative of the community served by the district. BCEC participants were suggested by school principals from throughout the district, with the final selection determined by the Steering Committee. The BCEC is exploring the possibilities and challenges associated with a balanced calendar tailored to the needs of Olympia’s students.

The BCEC will meet between September and December 2022, and a summary of its work will be provided to the superintendent and OSD Board of Directors. Meeting dates and summaries are posted on the Balanced Calendar webpage.

How can I provide feedback about this idea?
Questions or comments may also be emailed to [email protected]


What happens to Summer School for students?

If a balanced calendar was implemented, there would still be a summer break and summer learning opportunities along with intersession programming during the school year.

What would be the dates of the extended breaks during the school year?
The Citizens Advisory Committee exploring balanced calendar has not yet proposed specific dates for extended breaks if the district were to implement a balanced calendar. In other school districts that have explored this topic or implemented a balanced calendar, breaks are common in early fall (generally in October) and in early spring (generally in March), along with a traditional winter break.

What would be the school year start date and end date if a balanced calendar was implemented?
If a decision was made to move to a balanced calendar, the start and end date would depend on what calendar was eventually adopted. For districts that have adopted a balanced calendar, school generally starts sometime in August and ends in June.

What about the impact of a balanced calendar on traditional summer employment for staff and students?
Without knowing the actual calendar dates and how much summer could potentially be reduced, it is hard to fully address this question until the Citizens Advisory Committee is further along with its research. The longest break of the year would still be in the summer. If, for example, summer break were reduced by two to three weeks, there would continue to be summer employment opportunities – only reduced by two to three weeks. There might also be opportunities for students and staff to seek employment opportunities during the regular school year breaks. As with other areas that have adopted balanced calendars, there would likely be adjustments in the community to accommodate the availability of workers. Note: The Thurston County Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the concept of a Balanced Calendar.

What about the negative impact of having school start earlier in August when schools are not air-conditioned?
A full evaluation and assessment of air conditioning systems across the district would need to be performed prior to the potential move to a balanced calendar. Most OSD classrooms do not have air conditioning.

How will a balanced calendar affect city recreation programs?
If after an initial survey about Balanced Calendar this spring the district chooses to pursue the idea of a Balanced Calendar in a more formal way (including more extensive community engagement), city and community partners would be an integral part of that process.

Will staff, students, families and community members be part of the decision-making process?
The Citizens Advisory Committee on Balanced Calendar did some initial research on the topic of a balanced calendar and invited anyone interested to participate in its meetings. The committee then surveyed students, staff, families and community members in spring 2022 to learn whether people were interested in continuing to explore the idea. If so, it was shared that the community engagement process would be formalized with the creation of a committee made up of students, staff and families from every school in the district, as well as community members.

How would a balanced calendar affect students receiving special education services?
All school districts are legally bound to meet accommodations of students in special education, regardless of the calendar in effect. Intersession programming might also create additional opportunities for students in special education.

Could intersession activities include hands-on or outdoor learning?
Yes, a balanced calendar would still support hands-on or outdoor learning opportunities during intersessions.

How would intersession programming be funded?
Just like with our current summer school programs that provide remediation acceleration opportunities for students, we would use federal and state grants to fund intersession activities.

Who would staff intersession programs?
We would use a similar hiring process as the district currently uses with summer school. The opportunity to provide instruction would be opened up to OSD staff.

What about the negative impact on traditional summer vacation plans and visits to family members?
Without knowing what calendar would be adopted and how much the summer would be reduced, summer vacation plans and visits would still be possible for those interested. Additionally, breaks during the school year could provide opportunities for families interested to schedule visits and/or vacations.