The idea of a year-round school schedule has been one of the most hotly debated educational issues of the last decade. It is, at first, difficult to believe that such a seemingly sensible and innocuous proposition would arouse any public passion at all. Yet, every time the subject is brought up in a school district, it is greeted with such an outcry that one would think the right to vote rather than the right to vacation was being challenged. In this essay, I will examine exactly what the year-round school calendar entails, why we may need it, and what the main arguments for and against it are. Finally, I will offer an evaluation of the concept and give an opinion on its viability.
There are two basic types of year-round school schedules, with a number of variations within each category. The first type is a single-track system in which all students attend at the same time. A good example of this system exists at Buena Vista High School in Virginia, where the 12-month calendar is divided into three mandatory quarters and one optional. tuition-free summer quarter. This system was instituted in 1973, and although many were skeptical about the program at first, a recent survey indicates that a majority of parents, students, and teachers are now in favor of it. The current community support is not surprising when one considers the fact that the number of Buena Vista graduates going on to college has almost doubled since the year-round system began. ("How Not," 1990)
The second and far more common type of year-round schedule is the multi-track system, in which students rotate attendance to reduce overcrowding and make better use of scarce educational resources. The intervals of attendance and vacation vary from school to school, but in most multi-track systems the students end up with the same total number of school days (180) as they would in a traditional school schedule.
One of the best-designed multi-track systems is t...