When Should School Start? At DMPS, When Does it Ever End?

For all of the recent debate about when the school year should start, there must be lots of folks around here who are scratching their heads and asking: when does it end?

Because, in many ways, at Des Moines Public Schools education and other activities take place at our schools nearly every day of the year. Yes, it’s summertime, when the song says the livin’ is easy, but in this school district the activity level is high as, on any given day, thousands of students are taking part in a wide variety of programs at schools.


  • The Downtown School just finished its 2012-13 year last week while the continuous calendar buildings (Capitol View Elementary, Moulton Extended Learning Center and River Woods Elementary) will begin the 2013-14 school year on July 18.
  • The district’s Food & Nutrition Department is again overseeing a free meals program, this year operating at 26 locations and serving in excess of 2,000 breakfasts and lunches daily.
  • Metro Kids keeps going year round, too. During the summer top notch daycare is provided at 10 district sites serving approximately 450 kids.
  • For two weeks in June, 120 students from six middle schools (Harding, Hiatt, Meredith, Callanan, Weeks, and McCombs) participated in Minorities on the Move, the summer edition of Movement 515, a multilayered program established by DMPS teachers Emily Lang and Kristopher Rollins which trains kids in everything from poetry to urban leadership. Drake University and United Way partnered with the district to make this cutting edge day-camp happen. Go see the kids’ free show on August 1 at the Temple for Performing Arts!
  • Everybody Wins Iowa is a corps of literacy mentors that operates throughout the school year in 11 DMPS schools. This summer EWI has 17 volunteers participating each week in its summer program at Carver Community School, sponsored in conjunction with the Boys/Girls Clubs of Iowa.
  • In addition to traditional summer school going on at sites throughout the district, the Academic Support Labs (ASL) at the high schools are open for the business of Senior Summer School, a relatively new effort that will culminate on August 16th with the third annual DMPS summer commencement ceremony.
  • The 13th annual Summer Journalism Academy is wrapping up this week at North High School. It’s an invitational program for entering middle schoolers that features several field trips as the basis for in-class writing assignments and exercises. More than forty kids from around the district are participating this year.
  • The 21st annual Middle School Honor Band Camp culminated last week with a concert before a big crowd in the auditorium at Hoover High School. More than 180 musicians in grades six through nine were enrolled.
  • Twelve of the 17 DMPS elementary and middle schools that are designated 21st Century Community Learning Centers have scheduled activities designed to mitigate the attrition of skills learned during the 2012/13 regular school calendar during the summer recess. Willard, Samuelson, McKinley, Monroe, Capitol View, Morris, Garton and Hillis elementary schools, and  Brody, Callanan, Weeks, and Goodrell middle schools are all providing 21st CCLC summer programming.
  • Lincoln High School’s unique three-week Arabic program is back for a third summer this year, thanks to Mary Stimmel, head of the school’s language department and the program’s director, who won a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense aimed at expanding knowledge of key languages not commonly taught in America.
  • A few days after classes officially ended, students in the Science Bound program were back at Callanan Middle School to conduct experiments involving the launch of a weather balloon.
  • A troupe of thespians from Roosevelt High School left this week for a week of productions, workshops and college auditions at the 50th annual International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, NE, while the Roughriders speech and debate team were in Alabama earning honors at the National Forensic League’s tournament.
  • Summer is always a popular time for learning the rules of the road and DMPS has Driver’s Ed programs in high gear at both Lincoln and East high schools.
  • Before you know it, it will be time for the Jump Start Back-to-School Health Fair, an annual and free event that provides health screenings and supplies for students throughout Polk County. It’s slated for Saturday, July 27th from 11am to 6pm at East High School.

Ruth Wright, the DMPS Coordinator of Communities in Schools, tells people every chance she gets that the district would rather keep its buildings humming during the summer than let them sit idle.

“We are always anxious to partner with community groups and agencies to provide additional programming,” Wright said. “Mergers of private resources and district facilities make lots of sense and keep momentum that’s been established during the regular school year rolling right on through the summer.”

Almost lost in the shuffle of summer activities: athletics. All of the high school baseball and softball teams are in midseason form, highlighted by the East boys. The #7 ranked Scarlets started the season 18-2 and own an upset win over top-ranked Ankeny as they strive for a berth in the state tourney at the end of July. And from early morning cross country runs to football players lifting weights, student-athletes in Fall sports will soon be preparing for a new season.

Oh, one more thing: for most students the 2013-14 school year “begins” on August 22.

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