When I was younger and attending public school, I didn’t really care too much for summer vacation. Those long, seemingly endless days filled me with a stupor that only a return back to school in the fall could cure. I was one of those nerdy kids who thrived on learning and being in a scheduled classroom setting to be content. I think I would have enjoyed attending a year-round school, had that option existed when I was in grades K-12.
Year-round schools differ greatly from the traditional school year beginning in August or September and ending in May or June. With a year-round school, there are still the typical 180 school days in the year, but there is no long summer break. Instead there are numerous shorter breaks scheduled throughout the year.
A big part of the reasoning behind the need for a change to school calendar is that the 180-day school year has become antiquated. It was based on the need for children to return home during the summer months to help harvest on the family farm. Of course, there is no such need now, thus educators and administrators are free to move away from the traditional calendar, but at the same time, they are hesitant because they are still exploring the pros and cons of the year-round system.
Pros of Year-Round Schools
- During the summer, children tend to forget a lot of what they’ve learned during the school year. That means teachers have to spend a lot of time at the beginning of the year reviewing old material. The theory is that if students have shorter breaks on the year-round schedule, they will retain more knowledge and there will be less time spend on review. According to the National Association for Year-Round Education (NAYRE), “The balanced calendar minimizes the learning loss that occurs during a typical three-month summer vacation.”
- Those three months of summer break are a long time in the life of a child. Usually, about two weeks into summer vacation, the persistent cries of “I’m bored” assail the ears of parents everywhere. With year-round schooling, breaks won’t be as long, thus minimizing boredom. An Online Education Classes articlestates, “Summer vacations may be too hot for outdoor activities and long summer vacation may lead to more boredom and restless kids.”
- Year-round calendars also help to alleviate crowded conditions in many schools. Multi-track year-round school schedules mean that the student body is divided into four groups. At any given time, three-quarters of the students are attending school, while the other quarter is on vacation.
Cons of Year-Round Schools
- While shorter breaks might be good for young kids, they also mean that there is less time for teachers to plan lessons and hold staff development meetings. According to the Minnesota Department of Children, Families and Learning, “The professional development courses needed for teachers to acquire additional licensure or certifications are often offered during the summer when year-round schools may still be in session.” Teachers are already stressed out enough — why add to it?
- For families with one child attending a year-round school and other children attending traditional schools, planning for family time and vacations may be more difficult. Billee Bussard, of the “Summer Matters” website, believes that having one common time for family vacations (those three months of summer) is integral for children’s growth and development.
- Year-round school schedules make it difficult for teenagers to hold jobs during the summer, since they would be in school for the majority of the time. Some teens are responsible for contributing to their household income, and moving to a year-round calendar may make it impossible for them to make a contribution. “Many employers, such as pools and amusement parks, depend on teens” during the summer months, according to a Washington Examiner article from earlier this year.
Overall, there is still a lot of research to be done on both sides of this issue. Students in America deserve the best education possible, whether that’s a year-round education or a traditional one.