Year Round Schooling

As I have thoroughly enjoyed my first week off, it got me thinking about year round schooling as I see so many parent scrambling for child care for their kids.

I am at home for the summer. I still have planned day camps, lessons and play dates for my child. I am still paying hundreds of dollars this summer to keep my daughter educated and entertained this summer. Just because I am a teacher, doesn’t automatically mean that I spend every minute with my child and I am somehow saving money over non-teachers that work during the summer. It bothers me a little bit that when people are slamming educators, they also tag in this “summer off” as part of their rail against the system and that I’m somehow stealing money from them because I don’t have to pay for daycare over the summer. I do. My kid still plays soccer with your kid. Takes swimming lessons. Goes to “summer school” because this is where all the other kids are! Because I want her to be active. Because I want her to learn.

These ideas had me remembering a debate I did research for when I was taking a specialist course. The topic (loosely remembered) was the benefits and drawbacks of year round schooling. I was assigned the “con” point of view. Luckily, I knew a colleague who was teaching in a year round school board and was able to get some real first hand knowledge.

I faced numerous uphill battles, as most of my class was PRO year round. Here is a list of the arguments I had to face: the school year we now follow is antiquated and was set years ago in a time that literally physically benefited from the calendar. The lengthy summer break now was a disadvantage for many students as teachers often spent weeks on reviewing the previous years’ concepts. Year round schooling was allow for more continuous learning and use school resources to their best potential. Families would enjoy more frequent, shorter breaks/vacation and optimize traveling. (and spending!)   Costs and availability for daycare and sports would be reduced as there would be less students vying for the same slots.  Of course the strongest argument that was constantly returned to was the fact that student retention would be the strongest benefit and ultimately as educators, that is the primary goal.

My list of CONS seemed quite natural to me but obviously I was met with opposition.  The cost of maintaining a school year round was actually more than shutting it down for periods of time when no staff or students were in the building. Regular maintenance could be scheduled when no staff or students were allowed in the building. Teachers had to frequently share rooms and spaces to set up/down bulletin boards and learning spaces.(this was often seen as a nuisance) There is still a retention issue even after shorter 3week breaks as with 8 week breaks. Scheduling school trips and sports teams was a nightmare for students who went “off track” during a particular season.  Some social repercussions were felt when certain friends and/or bullies remained on same or different tracks.

As I have met with some parents now who speak about the difficulty with time, scheduling and costs of summer care, I do sympathize.  But you have to remember, regardless of the time of year, you would either be on your vacation or finding alternative arrangements anyway.  I had to point out the the LENGTH of the school year did not change, but the TIMING of the breaks did.

Is the problem with the summer break the length of the break or the length of the school year itself? Do people want the school year to be longer, generally speaking? Canada is a country that has some of the fewest “holidays” among developed countries. (we have half of what Austria does) Maybe we don’t need a longer school year for kids, but a shorter work year for adults??? Would that even the score? Something to think about.

I might note, I “won” my debate. As another note, some boards that previously adopted the year round system have abandoned it for some of the reasons I have listed above. Clearly , there are benefits to the system, obviously it works for many boards, educators, students and parents. I just wanted to make sure we know WHY we want it before we dive in.

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