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Year Round School Overview



This article discusses options that are available when considering a year round school schedule, including single track and multiple track schedules and how the year round school schedule changes the school calendar.

Having school throughout the year is not a new idea, but its one that has become more of a topic of conversation in recent years. Year round school has changed the school calendar in some districts and the various implementations have given rise to support and opposition. This article provides an overview of year round school information.

History of the School Year

Although everyone’s attention turned to planting in spring and harvest in fall, the school vacations that resulted from the needs of these times in rural communities did not, apparently, coincide with the summer vacation that many now expect. It is suggested that this configuration of a 9-month school year with summers off resulted from the practice in the nineteenth century of households that could afford to do so removing to a second home or another country, sometimes to escape the heat, as well as for other reasons.

In any case, experiments with varying school year schedules have been going on for at least a century, and one of the approaches that has strong backing from some and strong opposition from others is year round school (YRS), sometimes called year round learning or year round education (YRE).

Year Round School and Tracking

An element of year round school scheduling that is handled differently in different locations is whether students are on a single schedule (or track) or whether there are multiple tracks for the same student body as a whole with students following different calendars, and thus having class and vacations scheduled at somewhat or completely different times.

How Does Year Round School Change the School Calendar?

The typical (sometimes called “traditional”) school calendar has a schedule something like this, starting with the beginning of the school year in late August or early September (weekend days are not counted in this break-down):

  • 70 days of class
  • 3 days of Thanksgiving Break
  • 15 days of class
  • 10 days of winter break
  • 55 days of class
  • 5 days of spring break
  • 40 days of class
  • 60 days of summer break

This is only a general scheme: different states, school districts, and schools make alterations for specific reasons. For example, Labor Day occurs after school has begun in many states, and - as a National Holiday - is honored with the closing of school. Martin Luther King Jr. Day may also close schools. Memorial Day is another holiday celebrated throughout the United States with school closure.

On the state level, since, for example, Vermont’s local Town Meetings are often held in school buildings and to enable school faculty and staff to attend, that day is a school holiday in Vermont. Districts adjust schedules for teacher in-service days, parent-teacher conferences, and other reasons.

Year round school is implemented differently in different locations. Some year round school schedules simply distribute the long summer vacation duration throughout the school year, with students attending school for a similar number of days to those students on the “summer’s off” schedule. Based on a traditional 180-day school year, the schedule might be arranged using any of these mini-cycles:

  • 45 days of class; 15 days off
  • 60 days of class; 20 days off
  • 90 days of class; 30 days off

The intercessions - as the periods without class are sometimes known - can be used for extra instruction if necessary for students with special needs, either for remediation or enrichment.

In districts or schools using mult-track calendars, these three basic mini-schedules are also applied, often in four tracks. Besides the particular mini-cycle being employed, the major differences occur in whether and how often students on different tracks are on an extended break at the same time. Variations range from only sharing a winter break in the Los Angeles Unified School District to sharing summer, winter, and spring breaks in Clark County, Nevada.

All of these approaches simply redistribute vacation time, as does the following schedule, which is a bit more flexible, and - like the list above - begins with the start of the school year:

  • 45 days of class
  • 15 day of fall break
  • 30 days of class
  • 3 day Thanksgiving break
  • 15 days of class
  • 15 days of winter break
  • 45 days of class
  • 15 days of spring break
  • 45 days of class
  • 30 days of summer break

Sources

American Library Association: “Impact of Year-Round Schools” - ala.org

National Association for Year-Round Education: Calendars - nayre.org

Related Articles
Year Round School Debate