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Year-Round Schooling: How it affects the Economy

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This week I have been writing about different facets of the year-round schooling debate. First I looked at the effects on students and then moved to the impact on teachers. As I researched both groups, I found no distinct disadvantages to either (and some advantages) when placed on a year-round academic calendar.

Today I want to move away from the individual groups impacted and take a closer look at the overall economic effect of year-round schooling. Does this academic setup help or hurt taxpayers' pockets?

On-campus costs and savings

Year-round school programs are based on one of two different concepts: single-track, which releases all students for breaks throughout the year together, and multi-track, which staggers student breaks and effectively keeps the school building occupied year round. Obviously on a multi-track schedule, school maintenance costs rise because the building is in full use year-round. The cost does not increase by as much as a quarter, though, because most traditional schedule school buildings do have some employees there in the summer months and most offer summer school classes for some of that time too. Still, in cold-weather climates, the cost of not having to pay for air conditioning alone can be a deal-breaker when the topic of year-round schooling is broached. There is also the added cost of transportation on more days of school, custodial staff and additional administrative staff.

There are some areas where year-round schools can be long-term money saving options, though. If a particular district has more students than traditional schedules can accommodate, the capital cost of new buildings can be avoided with a multi-track schedule that allows more students to use the same building. Beyond the capital cost of a building, money can be saved through a higher amount of students using the same resources, like library books or physical education equipment. Some schools have even listed a decrease in vandalism as a financial plus of year-round occupancy.

Community cost and savings

Each individual community will feel a different economic impact when it comes to year-round schooling. A tourist community with summer attractions, for example, may feel more of a squeeze if its low-cost employee pool of high school students is suddenly in class instead. The same could be said for ski communities though that could benefit from multi-track scheduling of high school students during its busiest seasons. The summer months tend to be when most high school students earn the most money, however, because there is a significant duration of time with no school responsibilities. Without those months of a steady paycheck, students (and parents) stand to lose potential college money. Trying to work and maintain a job alongside classes can have a negative impact on grades according to most research and most employers cannot accommodate students who are only available two or three week spans at a time.

So the potential economic cost of year-round schooling is two-fold: the individual student may suffer financially, and the local businesses may have to pay out more for jobs that are better-suited for high school students who do not have the time off to work them.

Savings to the community are a little less tangible, but can be reflected in some research that says year-round schooling reduces teen crime, thus saving money for the community. At-risk students tend to perform better in year-round setups, making them more successful in their academic career which could feasibly mean a stronger economy down the road if those students avoid dropping out of high school. While the savings associated with year-round school schedules may not show up on something as straightforward as a utility bill, they still exist.

Like the impact on students and teachers, the financial ramifications for year-round schooling do not seem significantly negative. But for cash-strapped districts, any upfront costs can be a deal-breaker.

What other potential costs or savings do you associate with year-round schooling?

Dr. Matthew Lynch is the author of the recently released book, The Call to Teach: An Introduction to Teaching. To order it via Amazon, please click on the following link.