Summer is now in full swing, and kids around the country are enjoying summer camp, time at the town pool, or just hanging out with other kids in the neighborhood. And while it’s great to have that free time, summer vacation isn’t much of a ‘vacation’ for us parents. Outside of having to entertain the kids 24/7, there’s also the increased need to find babysitters or activities to fill their time and keep them from crying boredom, and even the inevitable educational slide-back that comes after two solid months of lazing around. Some experts have suggested a year-round school schedule as a possible solution, lightening the load on parents and helping kids maintain the strides they make in their studies. But is it a viable option?
Some school districts are already giving it a try. For several schools in Raleigh, North Carolina, school started again on July 9th after only three weeks off. Schools in Las Vegas, California and Salt Lake City have all embraced a year-round schedule in the past. But many of them have gone back to the normal schedule. Researchers have taken a close look at these programs, and their viability is rather inconclusive. Some of the schools have said that their students do better with the year-round schedule, while others have said that the traditional schedule works better. The answer might lie in altering the schedule for students and districts that need the extra time. Lower income schools and districts with large amounts of disabled students seem likely to have the best results with the year-round program, as those children don’t have the same sort of relaxed time off that most children do.
If you’re thrilled at the idea of keeping your child in school all year, keep in mind that you may still have the same issues with babysitters and boredom. Most of the year-round schooling schedules being considered still include the standard 180-day school year, and spread out vacations differently. Instead of the big summer break, kids would have three-week breaks spread throughout the year. When it comes to planning trips, camps or bringing in extra help, that schedule could actually make your life much harder. And school districts feeling the financial pinch would be in even worse trouble. Without the big break, expenses such as transportation, air conditioning and repair work would all increase.
Salt Lake City, one of the cities that tried out a year-round schedule, scrapped it last year once their examination of the results showed that nearby districts running on the standard schedule were turning in better overall testing scores. But while districts are balking, parents that were polled seem to be enjoying it. One parent had her child in a school where they got two weeks off after each nine weeks in school, and it seemed to be working out. Another parent, in a Minnesota district that offers the alternate schedule on an optional basis, feels her children don’t get bored as often. She also pointed out that teachers don’t have to review old information as much, meaning a subject can be covered with more depth.
Some organizations have spoken out against the idea of a year-round schedule, such as the Florida-based Summer Matters. They feel that while you may create a master of communication with those extended classes, the children don’t have the opportunity to experience learning opportunities outside of class. It’s clearly going to take more data to determine the right coarse, and parents everywhere should contact their home districts to see where the superintendent stands on the issue.