Year-Round Schools Make Sense
July 2, 1975
The annual American madness known as Summer Vacation is now underway and reminds us again that year-round schools make a lot of sense in more ways than one.
For well over two centuries, our education system has been geared to an agricultural economy that demanded youngsters to be free in the summer to help with the farming.
Today, when the industrial and technological eras have long superseded our rustic beginning, we continue to force two thirds of the population to compete madly for three months of fun and games.
Motels, resorts, national parks and scenic highways - almost deserted for most of the year - now cram in the customers and charge three times the going rate for everything in order to carry the facilities through the next "off season."
Schools stand idle, inviting vandalism; and businesses struggle with summer slump and overworked staffs filling in 'behind vacationing employees.
What slaves we humans are to habit.
A few communities around the country have found a better way - one all of us might find worth while looking into.
In 28 states, two million children are attending year-round schools, or have an option to do so. They get the same amount of vacation as before, but it is spaced out over the year.
A popular plan consists of four "attendance groups" having 45 days of school followed by three-week vacations. The breaks are scheduled in rotation so that when one group starts a new group returns to fill the school rooms, at any given moment, 75 pct. of a student body is a school.
Advocates of this plan are enthusiastic. It cuts down the need for classrooms and equipment, keeps the expensive school buildings operating year around, and improves the quality of education.
It is the latter advantage that sparks a growing interest in the arrangement.
"We're convinced it provides a better education," says Bruce Campbell, a New Jersey State school official who helps promote the growing movement through the National Council on Year-Round Education.
The U.S. News and World Report found that about 78,000 students are now on 12-month schedules. Most districts discovered through achievement tests that there was slight improvement in average scores. The biggest gain in education quality appeared to be an increase in pupil interest, and decreases in absenteeism and vandalism.
Breaking the year into shorter segments with more frequent vacations reduces boredom, tension and disorder. It gives more opportunity for elective courses of short range but high interest. Students who fail can make up quickly without falling behind their classmates. Gifted pupils have a larger selection of subjects to fill their minds.
The National Association Education was skeptical at first, but now says teachers usually decided they like the system after a fair trial.
Personally, I dislike summer vacations. All travel facilities are crowded, and I miss two or three weeks of wonderful weather in my own Beautiful Ohio. I like eating under my grape arbor, barbecuing hot dogs with friends, and playing golf on the course five minutes away.
I get grumpy when I find the gates of Disney World closed at 9:30 in the morning, or all the camping spots taken, or the "No Vacancy" signs winking at me in the dead of the night.
I much prefer winter vacations when I can join all other "snow birds" in sunny climes, but the sacrosanct school custom pushes me out on the turnpikes in search of a change of scenery for my youngsters.
But I must cut this short.
The family is waiting impatiently in the Magic Chariot, and we've got to put 600 miles behind us before we get to sleep in a strange bed.
When I get back I promise I will go around to the Board of Education and try to sell them on the idea of year-round schools.