An article titled “Calendar Changes Sought at 8 Schools as Wake Reduces Some Year-Round Options” was recently published in proposition to the eight schools in Wake County that may change their school calendars in 2018. This is a result of a district wide review and pushes towards adapting six of the eight schools to traditional calendars and the remaining two schools to multi-track year-round calendars. These proposed changes followed a thorough analysis of the school district, of which the majority of the traditional-calendar elementary and middle schools were over capacity and the majority of the non-traditional/year-round schools were under capacity.
In Wake County, traditional-calendar schools open in August and end in early June with a 10-week summer break. In contrast, the year-round calendar places periodic breaks during the school year and a shorter summer break. The idea of changing these to multi-track year-round schools would introduce the idea of splitting students into four groups (or tracks) and three of these groups would be in session at all times. With students following different schedules, more students would be able to attend the schools.
So, what are the advantages to year-round schools? And what makes traditional-schedule schools more favorable?
Although there is not an extensive 10-week summer break, there are many advantages to year-round schools. First of all, schools have cited increased performance because students have less time to forget material after a long span of being away from school. Because students are still required to spend the same amount of time in the classroom, year-round schooling includes more frequent breaks which are commonly implemented through a two to three months in the classroom and one to three weeks off model. And in terms of the school facility, this schedule provides a better use of the space as it avoids leaving the building unattended for months on end.
In opposition, some claim a decrease in family time and difficulties scheduling childcare during year-round schooling breaks as they are more frequent and lengthier than traditional calendars. This could also cause older students to suffer financially if they were relying on obtaining a full-time summer job. And while a year-round calendar may reduce the amount of material that students forget over breaks, it provides less opportunities for teachers to renew their education and take continuing education courses.
In all, each schooling option requires students to be in the classroom for 180 days each year and many families have preferences on these schooling schedules based on flexibility, work schedules, and child care options. A 10-week break can help to reduce teacher and student burn out by providing time off school and a longer summer-break but it can also be helpful to have these weeks distributed throughout the academic year. Another favorable proposition for schooling is to provide enrichment and remedial programs during break periods (like a 10-week summer) where a student is still receiving some stimulation during their break from their typical schooling schedule. This way, students are learning everyday but still taking advantage of traditional breaks.
So which is better? While both have advantages and disadvantages, this decision should be up to the student and their family. While more commonly a traditional calendar with a 10-week summer is valued, there are other schooling schedules that would prefer more frequent breaks periodically throughout the year. Researchers are still studying the long-term effects of whether or not year-round schooling leads to better academic performance (such as a greater amount of learning and higher test scores), but with the inclusivity of data collected in the past few years, school districts are weighing pros and cons in order to determine whether or not they should adapt their schooling schedules.