Year-Round School: Is It Right for You?
Though any mention of year-round school always arouses a degree of naysaying, much of the opposition to the concept may trace to simple misunderstandings.
For that reason and others, the Moore County school system is wise to have launched an ambitious informational campaign to help ensure that parents and others have as much helpful information about the program as possible. Informative leaflets have been sent home with students, and the system is holding several public meetings.
The option of a year-round schedule has been offered in some of the county's schools for 15 years. But the subject took on new urgency with last year's closing of Academy Heights Elementary and resultant reassignments.
In other localities, some school systems have converted to a year-round calendar for all students - partly because a systemwide approach can allow more efficient use of existing physical facilities. Such systems have sometimes run into a legal buzz saw, with parents filing lawsuits charging that year-round education is harmful to students.
That little such controversy has arisen here is a testament to the thoughtful approach taken by local school officials.
Main Reasons Are Outdated
The two primary reasons that American schools presumably got into the habit of taking the summer off - that rural families needed kids to work on the farm and that school buildings became insufferably hot in June, July and August - are no longer factors in this age of urbanization and air conditioning. So a lot is just habit.
Part of some people's knee-jerk hostility to year-round schools may spring from an assumption that students under such a system have to spend more days in class than those enrolled in traditional schools. But not so. The number of instructional days, at least in North Carolina, remains the same under both regimes. For year-rounders, the amount of vacation is simply divided up and spread around the calendar instead of being taken all at once.
In some parts of the country, advocates claim that year-round calendars help students perform better. One report said that scores on standardized tests increased 29 percent for year-round grade school students in California. But other research suggests that year-round schooling doesn't affect scholastic achievement either way. The Moore schools say there is little difference in that regard.
Still a Small Minority
Two things seem clear: Teachers tend to like the year-round system better. And having a series of shorter breaks around the calendar helps students better hang on to what they've learned.
But it's not available to everyone who wants it here. Because of the scheduling complications involved in having the two calendars operating simultaneously in a particular school, the year-round program is available at only four Moore County campuses, and only 12 percent of the system's students take advantage of it.
Much depends on family circumstances. For example, parents with one or more children on each calendar could obviously present insurmountable scheduling and transportation challenges.
So year-round schools aren't for everyone. But the local system is to be commended for taking such pains to make it as widely available as possible - and for doing so much to help parents get a handle on its pluses and minuses.
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