Is This the Time to Move to Year-Round School?

I’ve been fascinated with the idea of year-round schooling for some time now. We talk about the summer slide, and moving to a year-round school calendar seems to be a pretty easy solution to at least help address the problem. Some believe that it would also create a more equitable education system for students from poverty and those with learning disabilities.

While COVID-19 has had a drastic impact on education systems across the country, I believe this is a golden opportunity to make some positive, long term changes. One of those changes could be a move to year-round school. An article in the Seattle Times looked at this very issue, at this very time.

One popular approach to a 12-month school calendar operates on quarters and utilizes a nine weeks on and there weeks off format. This seems particularly useful during a COVID-19 conscience time. If you’ve every worked in a school, you know there are peak times when it seems like everybody in the building is sick. (Think late February and early March.) If these three weeks off lined up with some of these typical hot spots for sickness, it seems that this could be beneficial from a health standpoint. Full disclosure: I have absolutely no professional health training. I do, however, see students get sick in waves at particular times each year. It seems that being away from school and groups of students in close quarters would help reduce the spread of germs during these times.

As the Seattle Times article outlines, moving to a year-round calendar could help close equity gaps, improve student achievement, help special educations students with more consistency, and add precious instructional time for all students. Those all sounds like great ideas. No brainers actual. So what could possibly be the hang-up?

Unfortunately, one of the big obstacles in the way of a year-round school calendar is money. Some models would add days to the academic calendar. That would mean extra costs for teacher salaries, transportation, meals, heating cooling costs, and more. This would be a major obstacle during typical times, but the economic toll this pandemic has taken on the country has hit school budgets especially hard. Most school boards and administrators would be hard pressed to find money in their budgets right now to make such a drastic change.

However, if moving to a year-round school model would benefit teachers, I would encourage policy makers from Washington D.C. to state capitol buildings to local school districts to work to overcome the monetary hurdles that will create a better educational setting for our students. The greatest investment we can make as a society is in our students and young people.