The Never-Ending School “The trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be.” Everything is constantly changing, our world, our culture, and our education. The fact that the traditional school calendar may have worked many years ago does not mean that it is the best thing for the younger generations today. Concerned parents, teachers and the government are constantly searching for ways to develop the education of schools in America. That is why I am proposing to make the switch from the traditional school calendar to a year-round education. It would eliminate issues such as overcrowding, the costliness of the traditional calendar, and interrupted education.
Year-round education is a modified school calendar that reorganizes the school year to provide more continuous learning by dividing the long summer vacation into shorter, more frequent breaks. It was stated in an article by the NAYRE (National Association for Year Round Education), that at the turn of the century there was over a billion teenagers attending high school. This statistic introduces the question “Where are we going to put them all? Well, by implementing the year round systems there are many different possible solutions to this question. One imparticular would be to revise the class schedules. This advantage has made YRE particularly attractive in areas that are experiencing a rapid rise in population.
It is most often applied in schools that are hit the hardest by overcrowding. In order for YRE to increase the capacity of a school, it must operate on a multi-track program. This means that the facility embraces three, four or five different calendars, with a portion of students and faculty assigned to each. The instructional blocks and vacation times are staggered so that there is always a group of students on break. It can increase a school’s capacity by as much as 33 percent.
This advantage has made year-round education particularly attractive in areas that are experiencing a rapid rise in population. Soccorro Independent School District in El Paso, Texas, began its conversion to year-round education in 1991. School officials looked to YRE to assist in accommodating a rapidly rising enrollment. Using a four-track system, they were able to increase the capacity of the most overcrowded schools by one-third. Based on their success, all of the schools in the district switched to some form of a year-round calendar in the next three years. Soccorro administrators and faculty stress that they consider the reorganization of the calendar to have as many economic benefits as well.
By not having to build a new school or add on to an existing facility has been for the most part responsible for the yearly increase in the number of schools switching to a year-round calendar over the past decade. The chief reason, however, for converting to a year – round education is to avoid the cost of building a new school. Expenses would be incurred for building design, engineering, construction, and furnishing, as well as for infrastructure reconstruction (streets, sewers, water, utilities, and furniture.) In 1987, a study for the California State Board of Education indicated that it would cost nearly $4 million to build a 24-classroom elementary school (720 students), and more than $6 million to build a secondary school addition to accommodate 720 students. The Oxnard (CA) Unified School District converted to year-round education in 1976. In the 1984-85 school year, its elementary enrollment increased by 644 students.
If the district had been on the traditional nine-month calendar, it would have needed an additional school, at a cost of $5 million. It is believed that by converting to year-round education the district saved $16 million in new building costs over a 13-year period. Another example is the Pleasant Valley School District where officials are budgeting $71 million on a building project because classroom space is needed to get their kindergarten kids out of the churches that are currently substituting for their classrooms. That’s an important concern, but with the Pleasant Valley Board’s wasteful $71 million building program, the kindergarten kids are stuck in the churches for at least two years. However, Implementing year-round schooling now would take the kids out of the churches, and it would do it now, not in two years. Year-round schools could be in place within a year or less. That would relieve any overcrowding a full year or more before the District’s building plans would be put to use.
Aside from the cost savings though, the primary benefit of year-round education is it’s educational advantages. By eliminating the three month long gap between grades, it enables teachers to facilitate what they call continuous learning and avoid the learning loss that many educators say occurs in many students over the extended summer break. Year-round education more closely resembles the way that we learn, explained Kelly Johnson, a communications specialist with NAYRE. Research supports the existence of summer learning loss. As a result, teachers may spend as much as six to eight weeks each fall reviewing the same concepts taught the previous year.
This problem prompted Bayless, principal at McKinley, to explore the possibility of YRE. After researching the idea, the school decided on a 45-15, single-track, year-round plan. In other words, the school year is divided into four nine-week terms separated by four three-week vacations, with a five-week break during the summer. The term single-track indicates that all of the 460 students who attend McKinley share the same schedule. Bayless has nothing but positive things to say about her school’s transition to YRE.
In addition to improving learning retention, she notes it gives the children four fresh starts each year. Report cards come out every nine weeks, and the children go home knowing that in three weeks they can start over. By implementing this program there have been many significant changes in the system: less learning loss, higher student attendance, higher teacher attendance with fewer substitute days, and fewer dropouts, as stated by the NAYRE. Year-round education is not new. According to the National Association for Year-Round Education (NAYRE), various forms of the calendar were in effect between 1910 and 1928, but were abandoned after World War II when uniformity became the symbol of the nation. The first YRE program in the modern era was implemented at Park Elementary School in Hayward, Calif., in 1968. Today, 2,460 schools in 41 states, join Park Elementary School in Year round Education, with more schools converting each year.
In conclusion, I would like to leave off with a quote by Benjamin Disraeli. He says, “Upon the education of the people of this country the fate of this country depends.” Right now the United States is behind many European countries, as well as Japan, when it comes to the education of our children. That is a serious problem. Something has to be done towards the improvement of education in our country. Based on my research I believe that reorganizing the traditional calendar to a year round education will put us on the right path to educational improvement, as well as eliminate overcrowding in schools, costly building projects, and interrupted learning.