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Is Year-Round School the Best Choice for Your Kids?

by: Taylor Roberts

While summer vacations may have been the tradition all over the country when you were growing up, more and more schools have been abandoning the concept in favor of year-round school. The arguments for this schedule claim that students are more likely to retain material without a long summer vacation in which to forget. Those people against year-round education point out how it can cause headaches when arranging childcare and how programs like summer camps can suffer. Questions abound when you bring up the possibility of changing to year-round schooling. How should the schedule be set up? Will children be on the same timetable as their siblings? And, perhaps most importantly, have the merits of year-round school been proven? Here is a brief overview of how many year-round schools in the U.S. operate as well as some of the pros and cons of this system.

How Does Year-Round School Work?
Not as harsh as its name implies, schools that operate on a year-round schedule still only have students in class for the same number of days each year as any other school. Most traditional school schedules have students in class for 180 days out of the year, with short breaks in winter and spring, and a summer vacation of approximately 10 weeks. This schedule was established when the country was a mostly agrarian nation, and children were needed during the summer to tend to the family farms. Year-round school gets rid of the antiquated aspects of the school schedule, but still bases its school year on the 180-day timetable. Most schools on this calendar have students in school for 45 days (nine weeks) followed by 15 days (three weeks) of vacation. The breaks are usually still oriented such that students have off during the holidays in December, so the calendar calls for a spring, summer, and fall vacation as well. There are also some schools that operate year-round but use the schedule as a way to save money and reduce crowding. At these schools, different students' vacations will be staggered to different weeks so that there are always some students in session while others are on break.

Pros of Year-Round Education
Several parents, educators, and even students are heartily in favor of year-round schooling. Educators boast that since students don't ever have a long break during which to forget too much of what they learned in the previous year, teachers don't have to spend as much time reviewing old material at the start of a new session. Often, parents like the fact that they don't have to pay for 10 weeks of childcare over the summer and can spread it out instead. Many families also find that it is much easier (and cheaper) to take vacations during what is considered the "off-season" at many destinations around the country. Students may find that school is easier for them when they can seek help with learning throughout the year. They also don't get bored during a long break like some kids do during a traditional summer vacation. Finally, school systems are able to be more financially efficient by not shutting down over the summer. They can also accommodate more students at any one time if they use the staggered multi-tracking schedule.

Cons of Year-Round Education
While there are many people adamantly in favor of year-round schooling, there are just as many critics who argue against its merits. Teachers often rely on the long summer vacation to recharge and plan effectively for the next year. Without this precious planning time, they may find themselves ill-prepared and feel burned out. Parents can have trouble finding childcare during some of their kids' breaks because there aren't as many established programs that revolve around the year-round educational calendar. Summer programs like sports, youth camps, and extracurriculars like marching band often suffer because they rely on children having the full summer off. Kids may also feel cooped up, especially during the hot summer months, and many school buildings are older without adequate air conditioning. Older kids will also miss out on opportunities like getting summer jobs. Finally, if schools operate on a multi-tracking schedule, then siblings may not always have vacations at the same time as one another, which can create quite the headache for families trying to plan their year.

Making the Decision
Assuming you have the opportunity to decide whether or not to send your kids to year-round schooling, you will have to carefully weigh all of the pros and cons. Remember that all studies done so far to investigate whether the schedule is actually beneficial or detrimental to education have been inconclusive. If you do decide to jump into the year-round system, make sure you do so with an open mind. This timetable has the opportunity to succeed or fail based on how it is implemented, so it is your job as a parent, student, or teacher to give it a chance. Only by doing so will you be able to truly judge if it's the right choice for your family.