It was a typical last day at Fremont Elementary School. Students signed yearbooks, received academic and attendance awards, ate Otter Pops.
But Thursday’s celebration marked more than the end of a school year. It was the end of an era.
After serving as the city’s only year-round school for nearly 40 years, Fremont will assume the traditional schedule in the fall.
“It will allow us to train and collaborate with our peers throughout the year, which we couldn’t do before,” said Principal Casey Gilles. “It just makes sense.”
The school, which was built in 1953, adopted the year-round schedule in the early 1970s, when it was housed at the Fifth Street building that is now the Nevada Department of Education. The current site on Firebox Road was constructed in 1992.
When Fremont switched to the year-round schedule, it was known as a “choice school,” where parents could elect to send their children.
That was a different time in education, Gilles said.
“Every school operated as its own island,” she said. “Now, we all have the same standards and use the same training, so it makes sense for us all to be together.”
Over the years, proposals to shift the school to the traditional calendar have been met with opposition from parents and staffers.
The idea was presented as a budget-cutting measure in 2009 during a series of community meetings.
Paul Brugger, whose seven children went Fremont, pointed to the markedly higher attendance at the meeting held at Fremont on Feb. 23, 2009, as opposed to the other locations.
“That’s because Fremont is different,” he said at the meeting. “Fremont consists of teachers and parents and students who care deeply about the (year-round) schedule.”
He was joined by dozens of parents and teachers who touted the benefits of the schedule, urging the district to change the remaining schools in the district to achieve uniformity.
At the conclusion of those meetings, district officials abandoned the proposal to shift the school calendar.
However, the district announced May 17, 2012, that Fremont’s schedule would align with the other schools in the district at the beginning of the 2013 school year.
“Part of the reason for having a year to implement the plan is to give staff members, parents and students a chance to get ready for the change,” Superintendent Richard Stokes said in a telephone interview at the time.
On Thursday, he defended that decision, explaining that teachers at Fremont often were excluded from training and other meetings because of a conflicting schedule.
“I think it will be a good move,” he said. “It will create a situation where Fremont teachers will have more interaction with district staff to share ideas and create curriculum. It will make the district more cohesive and unify the resources we have.”
Gilles said it also will benefit their community partners, such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Nevada and the city’s latchkey program, which provided services to Fremont while the other schools were on break.
Teachers have accepted the change as well, she said.
“Once the decision was made, they realized it was time to make the switch,” Gilles said. “It will allow us to train and collaborate with our peers, which we couldn’t do before.”
Collin Hutson, 9, who just completed third grade, can see both sides of the issue.
“I like year-round because you get more breaks,” he said. “But for traditional, I like that you get a really long summer.”