Proponents of a year-round school year suggest that a shift in the time designated for teaching and learning will help students achieve more by minimizing summer learning loss, allowing for innovation and implementation of creative programs, and providing the time needed to assist children who need extra help. Many school districts around the country are in fact working toward increasing both the hours in each school day and the number of days schools are in session, and President Obama has urged school districts to embrace the idea of an extended school year.
Along with significant advantages, there are also distinct disadvantages associated with year round schooling. The major disadvantage is the assumed detriment to family structure. American families have become accustomed to the traditional long summer vacation. Parents may find it difficult to schedule vacations and family reunions. This concern is not to be dismissed, as it is important to children’s development to spend quality time with their families. Childcare could also become a concern, particularly if multiple, shorter school vacations were scheduled throughout the year, at times when parents are working.
Year-round schools can also prove to be disruptive to family life when children in the same household attend different schools. If one child in a home is a student at a traditional school while another attends a year-round school, the children may not have holidays together. Families could end up in a situation where one child is on a lengthy vacation while another is required to attend school.
During summer vacations, parents may struggle to schedule family vacations with varying work and school schedules, particularly if these schedules are not what they are accustomed to, or if different children in the same family have different schedules. Despite these potential problems with family scheduling, relevant research studies have actually found that, after implementing year-round schooling, parents found it not as hard to deal with the new schedule as they had anticipated before the implementation of the program.
Another possible drawback however is the impact on the family situations of teachers in year-round-schools who are parents. A teacher at a year long school who has children attending traditional schools may experience difficulty when it comes to spending time with her children during the summer vacations. Because of these potentially negative effects on the family life of students and teachers, the year-round school system was discontinued by some schools, including the Seminole County, Florida school district.
Extracurricular activities are another dimension of schooling that can be negatively influenced by year-round schooling. Teachers managing extracurricular activities observed similar difficulties adapting these activities into a year-round schooling schedule, as they did fitting their family life into the schedule. Extracurricular activities can put stress on all students.
Another area of concern when adapting to year-round schooling schedules is administration. School administrators have sometimes found it difficult to deal with licensure and contractual issues of the teachers when working out schedules for year-round schools. It can also be difficult to plan optimal usage of school buildings. Of course, a serious issue of having school all year is finding ways to best leverage this new, extra school time and to increase quality instruction time. In short, year-round schools require the administrative blocks of schools to keep working throughout the year, which increases the administrative burden.
Situations become even more difficult in multi-track schools, as the administration is required to manage different students in the same school at different times on the school year calendar. The multi-track year-round schools require more use of buildings, educational equipment, and other facilities, which creates further insufficiencies and increase expenses. Time is often wasted, particularly in mundane activities such as moving equipment from one class to another.
Dr. Matthew Lynch is an Assistant Professor of Education at Widener University. Dr. Lynch is the author of three books; It’s Time for Change: School Reform for the Next Decade (Rowman & Littlefield December, 2012), A Guide to Effective School Leadership Theories (Routledge February 26, 2012), and The Call to Teach: An Introduction to Teaching (Pearson 2013). Please visit his website at www.drmattlynch.com for more information.