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POLL: What Should the School Calendar Look Like?

Most schools in the area use the traditional school calendar, with almost three full months off in the summer. But that's changing in some areas to a year-round, or "balanced" calendar, with shorter but more frequent breaks.

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.

-from MSNBC

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.

Tell us what you think by voting in our poll, and add more opinions in the comments.

Tia August 07, 2012 at 03:53 AM
Hey Andy, we totally need a thumbs up or down for comments posted on the Patch!
Lisa Pelowski Leszczynski August 07, 2012 at 11:00 AM
Balanced school year is the way to go. Better education, more convenient for family vacations and savings for the school districts. My cousins had a balanced school year in California 20 years ago - it started because of crowding/lack of space - but they all agree it was a better learning experience.
John Seymour August 07, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Everyone who is saying a balanced school year is correct and teachers would go for it. The problem is the legislature controls the school year...not the unions as some would believe. The rule about starting after Sept. 1 came from the tourism lobby who wanted summer to last longer for more $$$$. That is what will hold back any changes. Try and convince the resort owners up north and the Dells that this is a good idea...it won't happen. Too much $$$ involved in summer tourism in WI.
Carolyn Tyler August 10, 2012 at 11:41 AM
Sarah, I agree.
Neeq79 August 22, 2012 at 09:20 PM
With parents complaining their kids forget over the summer...um, how about making them read a few books or for elementary kids, do those workbooks for specific grades you can find at book stores?? How about taking away their computer and iPhone time and forcing them to go outside, play, and learn? As far as babysitting, why not hire teachers, college, or hs students to babysit? Great time for summer camp! There are options to keep the kids learning and occupied, it's up to the parents to actually figure this out...summer comes around the same time every year!

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