The concept of a long summer break is believed to have roots in the agrarian calendar. Students and their families needed summer months to prepare crops for autumn harvest, so it was unreasonable to expect them to continue attending school during that time of year. Obviously, times have changed and there are far fewer reasons to stick with a tradition that feeds student exhaustion during the lengthy school year and student forgetfulness during summer. Even though the traditional school calendar has been around for a long time, the less common alternative—a year-round calendar—might just be the way of the future.
Year-round schools operate for the same number of days as a traditional schedule, but they’re spread out differently. The year is separated into four nine-week quarters and each quarter is followed by a three to four-week break, or intercession. This has a few benefits.
First, with shorter breaks, students can retain information better. Because there are never multiple months of consecutive vacation, students who struggle with retaining information don’t find their learning process disrupted. Although studies have been inconclusive as far as determining whether a year round schedule results in increased test scores, we do know that shorter breaks have been proven to help those at risk of falling behind.
Some might think a year-round schedule can make traditional summer school programs difficult to implement. However, those classes can easily take place during the three to four week intercessions when necessary.
Another benefit comes from a less well-known feature of the year-round system, called multitracking. It allows students to have breaks that are scheduled at different times and occur in rotation. For example, if there are four tracks, only three would be at the school at a time. This can allow the schools to enroll more students, without the need for physical expansion.
That’s not to say there are no drawbacks to year round schools. The lack of long summer breaks can make it more difficult for students to get jobs or internships, since they won’t be able to work full-time for longer than a month each quarter. Additionally, since the year round schedule is so uncommon, switching can cause conflicts if different schools use different schedules. But this problem would only be temporary if a trend led more schools to make the switch. Although it may seem like a big change, the year round schedule benefits students and teachers in a number of ways and deserves consideration as an alternative to the current system.