Editor's Note (The View From Here

School Calendars

Time for a change? It’s September and everyone is finally back to school, While many parents are celebrating, some are asking the question… “why the long summer breaks versus year-round school?” This is a debate that has been going on for as long as I can remember. As we talk about learning being 24/7, the phasing out of the Carnegie Unit in favor of mastery, and the changes we are seeing in teaching and learning, we also need to talk about the school calendar. The traditional school calendar was developed for the agrarian age, which made sense at the time. Unfortunately, that time has passed and we need to decide if keeping with the traditional school calendar is about learning – or logistics.

Critics contend that research on the academic benefits of year-round education is inconclusive and that extracurricular programs will suffer. Supporters contend that shorter times away from school will improve student retention, eliminating the need to reteach for weeks after a long summer break. They believe remediation can occur, when needed, during the school year — not as a “punishment” forcing a student to go to summer school. The same is true for enrichment programs.

In our August e-newsletter we asked the question, “Is it a school’s job to address not only what happens in the classroom, but also social and economic issues in the community?” A majority of you who answered our poll said “yes.” If that is what we truly believe, we need to encourage disadvantaged communities to consider year-round and community schools for the sake of their students and their families. While opportunities exist for those in the middle-class for out-of-school learning activities, the same is not true for students living in poverty. Schools provide them with a safe place, a hot meal and activities to keep them engaged. For many of these students, summer is time lost.

Year-round education also affects space planning and school facilities. Depending on the district’s year-round plan (45-15, 60-20 and 90-30) and if they operate single-track or multi-track, building use can be optimized to help relieve overcrowding and serve more students. Plus… school buildings don’t need a summer vacation, except for the summer maintenance and construction projects.

With all of the changes we have seen in the past few years in educational delivery and school design, we would be remiss if we did not look at the school calendar again. Making a change may feel like moving a mountain, but I can’t imagine 24/7 or life-long learning with the tagline “except for the months of June, July and August.”

This article originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of School Planning & Management.

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