“I love school so much that we should shorten our summer break and stretch out our school year as long as possible,” said no student ever. Unfortunately–or fortunately, depending on where you stand on year-round schools–students don’t get to vote on the school calendar. (If we did, summer break would be six months long, Mondays would be part of the weekend, and Friday’s name would be permanently changed to Ice Cream Fun Day.) That being said, school actually serves a purpose besides imprisonment, and having more of it stretched over a year could potentially have benefits.
The school that I attend uses a “modified year-round” schedule, meaning that we have super-long breaks throughout the year and a shortened summer break. This year, for instance, we started school on July 22 and end on May 28. That’s ten months of learning and two months for summer. Like anything, an extended school year comes with advantages and disadvantages.
Less Summer Slide
It’s easy to spend all of summer break on Facebook and on Netflix (except, of course, the last day of break, which is crammed with all the summer homework you should have been doing). There’s nothing wrong with having fun–you deserve it, after all–but months without learning lead to what is called the “summer slide”: the loss of academic knowledge over summer break.
Students at year-round schools avoid the summer slide (or, at least, suffer from it less) because summer is shorter. Instead of spending three months forgetting how to speak Spanish or do calculus, they spend two months or one month. When they get back to school, everything they learned over the last year is still somewhat fresh in their heads, at least compared to students at schools that use a more traditional calendar. This results in less review at the beginning of the year and more actual learning.
No Summer Boredom
Summer’s nice, but let’s face it: At a certain point, it can get boring. After watching every episode of Doctor Who on Netflix, re-reading every Harry Potter book twice, turning into a prune in the pool, and sleeping for twenty hours straight, there’s really nothing to do. School might be a pain, but at least it’s something, and every summer, there comes a point where you’d rather be in school–learning, socializing, and being a productive human being–than in front of your computer, reading every single post on your Facebook news feed for the sixth time that hour. Students who go to year-round schools may or may not experience this feeling, but certainly, any summer boredom that they do feel is reduced significantly.
The school year, though extended over a long period of time, is still 180 days long. Time taken out of summer break is spread across breaks throughout the year, which means two and a half school-free weeks for fall, winter, and spring. The I’m-free-at-last feeling that usually precedes summer break comes at the end of each quarter at year-round schools, and it’s like Christmas every ten weeks.
Students at year-round schools don’t forget what they learn during summer. They don’t get super-bored. But it still doesn’t change the fact that their summer–their freedom–is cut short by a few weeks, and they are forced to sit in a building and learn while the sun is still shining and the pool is calling their names. They have less time to vacation, less time to spend with their families, less time for summer jobs, and let’s not forget about the reduced time to do summer homework. With a shortened summer, it’s easy to go back to school
still feeling beaten up from the last year (Thanks, junior year) and burn out with months and months to go. Summer is usually long so that students can fully recuperate (or, at least, it helps), and year-round school summers may not be long enough to let students recover from the last year.
No Time Over Breaks
Breaks are long, sure–but teachers know how to compensate with homework. In a traditional school calendar, the single week or so allotted for fall break wouldn’t be sufficient to read, annotate, and BS an essay about a book. In a year-round school, however, breaks are long, so the homework doled out for breaks is long as well. Who needs time with their family? Books are your family; schoolwork is your life.
Or not. Really, decisions about high school–like decisions about school calendars–are usually made by parents, not students. Still, it’s important to consider these factors to life as a student at a year-round high school. School might feel like it’s your life, but is that a good thing or a bad thing? You decide.