Friday, April 17, 2020

The Case for a 12 Month School Year

The New York Times is worried about kids. They cite alarming statistics - the loss of 30% of reading gains is just one - in store for students without face-to-face teacher time. Fifth graders, who need to shore up their math skills for the rigors of middle school instruction, are at particular risk.

This worries the Times. The learning setbacks that schoolchildren commonly experience over a summer vacation can easily wipe out one or two months of academic growth, they tell us, and the disruption caused by the virus will be even worse.  What to do?  What to do?

I've been smiling at all this angst.  There's always been a solution to the losses over the summer - Year 'Round School.  I've been on this bandwagon for ages.

My school board colleagues looked askance at me whenever I broached the topic.  Vacations?  Summer Camp?  Family Immersion Time?  What to do????

Well, a quarter system consisting of 10 week blocks of learning separated by three week breaks adds up to 52 weeks of learning and fun, without a two month work stoppage.  Disney is fun in October... more fun than swatting mosquitoes and breathing through the humidity of Florida in July.  Summer camps can operate year 'round.  Resorts would have more vacationers spread out comfortably through the calendar. And family time?  After one month of freedom, the days begin to stretch out endlessly.  Short breaks between quarters will feel valuable and will end before they become boring.

And Family Immersion Time?  How's that feeling right now?  Sometimes, enough is enough.

Here in Arizona, it's always seemed silly to send the kiddos home for the summer when, for some, the only air conditioned space they have is in the school building.  Months without school breakfast and lunch are hard to handle for those who are food insecure.  Sure, bagged meals can be picked up, but a hot lunch makes all the difference, especially if there's not much waiting for you at home for dinner.  

Live with that image for a while.  

Pedagogical reasons abound.  It takes time to get into the swing of things; two months off in a chaotic home situation makes the start of school a challenge for teachers.  The loss of skills is obvious; many of our students don't have families who can help them keep up. 

High Schoolers with nothing to do for months at a time are a recipe for disaster.  Shorter, more frequent breaks are less likely to induce boredom related misadventures.

All those empty school buildings, serving no purpose as June and July and August roll by, make me crazy.  All that potential, sitting there, unused. 

What about the money?  Teachers will have to be paid like the full-time employees they are. No longer will they hear but you have summers off!!!  I know that those summers are used for continuing education, for cutting out shapes and maps to decorate and educate, for reading and choosing books to share, for developing lesson plans and planning field trips and adventures.  It's not a 9 month job, even if the calendar pretends that it is so.  Year 'Round School validates what's already happening.

The 2 month summer vacation from school was designed to allow farm kids to harvest the crops.  I don't see many American kids out in the fields these days.  

Our economy has changed.  So should our schools.


  1. I could not agree more. For those with two working parents, summer vacation is just boring after the first week.

    1. I've been singing this song since I was in 6th grade and didn't wanna go to summer camp.

  2. You make a very good case for something I was ready to disagree with.

  3. For years I have been arguing for year round school on our community forum and been yelled down. Even when I pointed out that we could have fewer school buildings, thus saving on taxes. Additionally, when I worked in a private boarding kennel I found out ow many families there are that would love to be off in the winter.... like for skiing vacations.

    1. There are so many many reasons that it's a good idea. But, as you found out, people are resistant to change.


Talk back to me! Word Verification is gone!