With her pink messenger bag slung over her shoulder, Brittany Peoples said Monday that she looked forward to starting school a month earlier than she did last year.
"I have something more to do," said the smiling fifth grader at John P. Altgeld Elementary School.
Altgeld is one of 63 schools switching to the year round schedule, something the Chicago Public Schools call "Track E." Officials say it helps keep kids off the street and out of harms way and makes it harder to forget what they learned the year before.
Three years ago there were only 18 year-round schools, now there are 195 including 10 high schools.
With the help of NBA star Dwyane Wade, schools CEO Ron Huberman rang a ceremonial bell Morning at Altgeld and encouraged more schools to switch their schedules to Track E.
"This first day of school, you know, you guys are starting something by being here. You guys will have a jump on life," Wade explained.
"We want parents to be engaged and say, 'I want my child to start school early next year,'" he challenged.
Year round students attend school the same number of days as their traditional fall to summer counterparts. The difference is in how that time is spent. Instead of a long summer vacation, Track E students take a number of two and three week "intercessions" throughout the year.
Educational opportunities are offered during the intercessions to limit students learning loss.
Some opponents of year-round classes complain that it makes family vacation planning more difficult when students attend different schools. That’s why CPS is encouraging nearby schools to switch to Track E when their neighboring schools do.
"The kids need something else to do," said James Peoples. "It's an alternative to being on the streets with so much violence."