Summer break has been a hallmark of student-hood for what seems like forever.
But when summer comes around, parents who work have to find some place for their children to go. Enter summer school, summer camp, nannies, sitters, grandparents and children being left to fend for themselves.
Most schools in southeast Wisconsin and throughout the state remain on the traditional calendar, with almost three full months off in the summer, but some schools are bucking that trend.
Brownsburg, IN, has moved to a balanced calendar with two-week breaks in fall, winter and spring, and eight weeks off in summer. Some districts in Utah have moved to a year-round calendar due to space concerns. One Jordan, UT, official said the year-round calendar has increased school capacity by 25 percent, and saved them from having to build 13 new schools.
There are pros and cons to both types of school calendars, as looked at by the San Jose Mercury News: The traditional summers-off schedule means a lot of hustling by parents to find summer care for their school-age children, and for some students having three months off leads to an academic slide.
Janes Elementary School in Racine was the first year-round school in Wisconsin. Students there attend school for 60 days and then have 20 days off. The school's academic year begins after July 4th and ends the third week in June.
Year-round calendars are gaining ground, reports MSNBC. Over the past 10 years, the number of students on a year-round schedule went up from 1.5 million to 2.5 million in 2008. The story reports some experts believe as many as 5 million students could be on year-round schedules by 2012-13.
The Obama administration reportedly supports year-round schooling, particularly because of the boost it appears to give lower-achieving students by keeping them from backsliding during the long break.
"Society can't keep saying to schools 'have every kid perform better' when we don't have them here enough," said Charlie Kyte, president of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators. A few Minnesota districts have adopted balanced calendars, and many others are studying the idea.
And, if you think summers off is the way it's always been, think again. Slate took a look at the history of school calendars, and found things were all over the map.
Among the things Juliet Lapidos reported in Slate:
- Urban school years used to be much longer, clocking in at more than 225 education days per year, but students only showed up about half the time.
- Rural school had school years split into two parts, with a winter and summer session so students could be home working on the farm during spring planting and fall harvests.
- School reformers worried the long school calendar was bad for children's bodies and minds, and physicians thought they were "too frail" for year-round education.
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