In my last post, I talked about the reasons I feel that teachers should get behind the push to support year-round schooling and how more consistent time in the classroom will lead to higher student performance, boosting teacher accountability ratings and accommodating a much more streamlined education process. Today I want to look at the common reasons that people are against switching from a summers-off school calendar to a year-round schooling model.
The summer months are typically the highest ones for energy consumption. In fact, the average electricity bill for homeowners in the summer months goes up 4 to 8 percent. The same concept would be true of schools. Having empty classrooms in the summer months means less money going out to air conditioning and prevents other warm-weather costs from hitting school utility budgets. It may seem like a minor point, but an increase in utility bills for one-quarter of the year really could hurt schools’ bottom lines.
Not enough “down time”
Some childhood development experts believe that particularly when it comes to younger students, time off in the summer months is a vital component of healthy development. The argument follows that kids are not designed to spend so much of their time inside classroom walls and that the warmer, pleasant weather of the summer provides a perfect opportunity to get outside and experience childhood. The problem with this argument, of course, is that most children are not spending their summers frolicking in fields of flowers or running around their neighborhoods, hanging out with other kids.
The days of kids spending their summers outside, communing with nature and getting plenty of exercise, are long past. A recent Harvard University study found that school-age children tend to gain weight at a faster pace during the summer months than during the school year, a fact attributed to more time spent in sedentary activities like watching television or using mobile devices instead of being outside or participating in active pursuits. Not only must K-12 students relearn the academic items, but they must also shift their mentalities from less-active, sedentary ones to sharp, alert learning models—and teachers face the brunt of this responsibility.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reports that by the time children graduate from high school, they will have spent more time watching television than in classrooms. What’s more—children who watch an excessive amount of television generally have lower grades in school, read fewer books and have more health problems. While some children visit summer camps, or attend child care when school is out, others stay at home, inside, with not much else to do than watch TV or play games on electronic devices. This is especially true for kids who are middle-school age or higher and are able to stay home alone when parents work. The “down time” of the summer months is really just empty time, often void of anything academically or developmentally advantageous.
For parents with children of different ages and in different schools, a year-round schedule could present serious scheduling issues. This argument assumes that schools would actually adhere to different time off schedules—something that seemingly could be adjusted so that all schools within a particular district or geographic area were on the same schedule. There is also the child care debate that says it would be difficult for working parents to find babysitters for one or two weeks at a time every few months, as opposed to three months straight in the summer. Again though, the market adjusts with demand and it seems to me that child care centers and camps would offer programs when students needed them. Just because those programs are not available now does not mean they would not exist when families were willing to pay for them.
The most common arguments against year-round schooling seem like a stretch, at best. They are based on assumptions that are not entirely grounded and reek more of the fear of change than of actual concern.
The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.