According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available, approximately 14 percen

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According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available, approximately 14 percent of elementary and high schools in the U.S. were operating on a year-round calendar. Although no new studies have been reported, indications are that the figures haven’t changed much. A recent article in the Huffington Post noted that some school districts that thought year-round schools were the answer to all educational problems have returned to the traditional calendar. Others have given up the traditional calendar for a year-round one.

There are pros and cons to both a traditional calendar and a year-round one. Educators have differing opinions as to which type of school schedule is the best. There is no consensus among parents about which plan should work out for them. Even students have differing opinions on which calendar they prefer.

Traditional versus year-round calendar

Whether a school district uses a traditional or year-round calendar, students attend classes approximately 180 days per year. A traditional calendar, with a long summer break, has been the norm since schools were originally established in the U.S. The calendar, with school sessions starting shortly after Labor Day and ending at the end of May with a few short holiday vacations, was established so that older students could help harvest crops in the summertime.

In recent years, there have been experiments with different types of year-round calendars. In one plan, all students go to school the same number of days, usually about nine weeks of school alternating with three weeks off. Some schools may have 60 or 90 days of school followed by 20 or 30 days of vacation. Another plan has multi-tracks with some students attending school while others have time off. In multi-tracking districts, the schools are never empty of students so the schools are able to accommodate a greater number of students.

Not only is there no agreement among educators, parents, and students as to the value of year-round schools, research is inconclusive on which type of school calendar is the best. There are pros and cons to a year-round calendar.

Pros of a year-round calendar

  • All research confirms that during the long summer break, students lose some of their skills. Teachers spend the first few weeks of a school year reviewing so that students are brought up to the level they were when the previous school year ended. With shorter breaks between sessions, there will not be this lapse in learning.
  • Multi-track plans accommodate more students and often result in smaller class sizes.
  • Many students report they get bored during a long summer vacation and prefer being in school year-round.
  • Remedial classes can be offered during the short break which helps keep struggling students from lagging behind.
  • Teachers report greater satisfaction due to having breaks when they really need them, such as at the end of a grading session.

 Cons of a year-round calendar

  • It can be very inconvenient for parents who need to arrange for child care when school is not in session.
  • It costs more to keep schools in session year-round. Heating and air-conditioning costs increase and it is more difficult for maintenance crews to make major repairs when the classrooms are rarely empty.
  • It limits families from taking extended vacations and decreases the opportunities for summer enrichment programs such as summer camps or summer jobs for teenagers.
  • Musical programs and other extra-curricular activities often suffer due to problems with scheduling competitions and practices.
  • Opportunities for teachers to participate in summer continuing education programs are decreased.