Long, long ago, in a cornfield far, far away, a farmer was trying to harvest his crops without the help of his children. His children, you see, were attending school in town. He needed their help for the harvest, so he loaded up the wagon and headed to town.
The dusty, rutted road was crowded. All of his neighbors were headed to town and it turns out they were all going to the school. The poor “school marm” didn’t know what to think when the parents showed up and picked their children up. Not a child was left behind. The next day, no students showed up for school; they were all home working on the farm. The school board declared that there was no need to pay the “school marm” if there were no children to teach, so they gave her a summer vacation (without pay) and told her to show up in September to begin teaching again.
That, at least in some form or fashion, is how our school calendar evolved. Our school year is loosely based on the agrarian calendar, because all hands were needed in the fields. Some modifications to the calendar have been made, but it is based on the growing season and we have not changed it.
Why talk about changing it now?
Well, let’s see. If we were to have year-round school, what would happen? On the plus side we would better utilize our existing facilities. During the summer months the majority of our school buildings sit empty, and a building that is not being used seems to age more quickly than one that is in service. The down side is that a lot of maintenance and construction take place during this down time. Buses that sit idle may need additional maintenance before they are ready to be on the road for a new school year. If there was not extended length of down time, this additional maintenance may not be necessary.
How about the cafeteria? Stoves, ovens and warmers are not being used, and as such are more susceptible to damage. Rust may begin to form and drains may clog up from non-use. Freezers and coolers will continue to run and expenses will continue to accumulate without income being generated from the sale of meals. With year-round school the cafeterias would be used and many students who would not otherwise get a good, healthy meal would have one – maybe two, meals a day.
As long as we are on the subject of students, which is what school is really all about, what would year-round school do for their education? Many educators believe that students regress, at least to some degree, during time away from school. There are a great many who believe that the summer break is detrimental to a student’s education and that year-round school would help to reduce this regression and would thus help to improve student performance.
Keeping our schools open year-round might help us to increase the number of days that we are able to teach our students. This would allow us to cover more of the required curriculum and might allow us to supplement that curriculum with some enrichment activities. That would be a good thing!
The down side for having students at school during the summer months – theme parks, swimming pools, motes and hotels, restaurants, summer camps, and day care centers would suffer due to lack of attendance. At least, that is the theory.
Year-round schools are a viable option and may help us to answer many of the problems that the education system faces today. There are pros and cons both, and all should be weighed carefully to determine which school calendar is best. We no longer need our children at home to help us harvest the crops. But then again, many of today’s farm tractors are computer-controlled and parents may need their kids at home to show them how to program them.