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Ask Dr. Lynch: What Are the Benefits and Drawbacks of Year Round Schools?

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Question: I am considering taking an accounting job with a district that has year round schools. Since I am unfamiliar with the concept, I would like to know what the benefits and drawbacks are. Me and my husband have three school aged children, and we want to do what's best for them. Virginia S.

Answer: Virginia, first of all, congratulations on the job offer. I know that it must be difficult for you and your husband to consider exposing your children to something that is unfamiliar. In this column, I will explain the benefits and drawbacks of year round schools, which will help you make a more informed decision concerning your job offer.

Many school districts around the country are in fact working toward extending the school year. As far as the benefits of year round schools, the shift in the time designated for teaching and learning helps students achieve more by minimizing summer learning loss, allowing for innovation and implementation of creative programs, and providing the time needed to assist children who need extra help.

Research seems to back up these claims, as it shows that time may be the most essential resource of the education system. However, it is important to recognize that merely extending the school year is not a panacea for improving student performance. It is necessary to utilize the available time in the best possible manner. If educators fail to convert the available time to quality teaching and learning time, the increased school year will not improve student performance.

While I have pointed out the many benefits of a longer school year, there are also some drawbacks. The major drawback is the assumed detriment to family structure. American families have become accustomed to the traditional long summer vacation. Parents may find it difficult to schedule vacations and family reunions. This concern is not to be dismissed, as it is important to children's development to spend quality time with their families.

Childcare could also become a concern, particularly if multiple, shorter school vacations were scheduled throughout the year, at times when parents are working. Extracurricular activities are another dimension of schooling that can be negatively influenced by year-round schooling. Teachers managing extracurricular activities have observed difficulties adapting these activities into a year-round schooling schedule.

Another area of concern when adapting to year-round schooling schedules is its effect on the administration. School administrators have sometimes found it difficult to deal with licensure and contractual issues of the teachers when working out schedules for year-round schools. It can also be difficult to plan the optimal use of school buildings. Of course, a serious issue is finding ways to best leverage this new, extended school year to increase quality instruction time. In short, year-round schools require the administrative blocks of schools to keep working throughout the year, which increases the administrative burden.

At the end of the day, you have to compare and contrast the benefits and drawbacks of year round schools with your families situation. Do the benefits outweigh the drawbacks or vice versa? I hope my column will assist you and your husband in making an informed decision. Good luck, and let me know how it goes.