Year-round schooling has been adopted by many school districts around the United States and in many other countries around the world. Is your child’s school district considering switching to this alternative schedule?
Before you take your stance on this hot-button issue, make sure to do your research and consider the benefits and challenges of year-round education.
To some, year-round schooling sounds like your child will be locked up in a classroom every day of the year with no breaks. In fact, most year-round programs have 180 school days — the same number as traditional nine-month schools. The main difference is that year-round schools have shorter breaks that are evenly dispersed throughout the entire year.
Of the more than 3,000 schools that have switched to year-round schooling, results have been very mixed. Some schools report improved grades, some report declining school performance. And some schools that switched to year-round schooling for a number of years have returned to the traditional nine-month system after reporting no marked improvement.
For some school districts, year-round schooling is the answer to a specific problem: overcrowding. Some districts adopt a multitrack system that staggers students’ schedules to ease overcrowding issues. This means all the district’s students are never at the school at the same time.
So what are the pros and cons of this system?
Kids don’t get bored during a long summer break. For children that spend the traditional three-month summer vacation at home, the time off can become tedious. These children may be happier with a shorter summer vacation if it means more time off throughout the school year.
Teachers spend less time reviewing lessons. When students are away from school for shorter periods of time, it’s easier for kids to retain information. Summer learning loss is especially prevalent in low-income school districts.
Multitrack year-round schooling eases overcrowding. For states with rapidly growing student enrollment, the state doesn’t have to build as many new schools to accommodate population growth. Class sizes can also remain smaller.
It’s more difficult for high school students to have summer jobs. Summer is a key time for many businesses to employ extra workers, and students in year-round schools will miss out on this opportunity. Year-round schooling also limits opportunities for family travel and summer camps.
Year-round schools sometimes cost more to run. Depending on the location, installing and running air conditioners in the summer can increase costs. Routine repairs and maintenance can be more costly if jobs have to be rushed since breaks are shorter. Multitrack systems have much higher costs than traditional schooling, but it is usually still cheaper than building additional schools.
Extracurriculars such as after-school sports programs may suffer. If one school district switches to year-round schooling while other districts remain on a nine-month schedule, it will make it difficult to schedule competitive games against one another.
Just like school uniforms or sex education programs, year-round schooling is a much-debated issue in the United States, and in all likelihood, will continue to be. In the end, year-round schooling benefits some and hinders others.
If your child’s school district is considering making the switch, it’s a great idea to get involved. Attend any meetings that the school opens to the public and voice your concerns. The school district may have good reasons for trying this alternative schedule. But in the end, the most important consideration to make is how it will effect the school’s most important asset: the students.
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