It is refreshing (and frankly pleasantly surprising) to see that the Utah legislative leaders have (seemingly) finally given up on their school voucher fetish and begun to look at more productive and sensible methods of improving our school system. I’m particularly pleased to see year-round school being proposed, both by Senator Howard Stephenson in SB-41 and by Governor
Romney Huntsman (guess the presidential coverage is getting to me…) in his 2008 State of the State address.
I’ve long been a fan of year-round school. The traditional school schedule was fashioned to meet the needs of rural/agrarian communities and family farms—a community type and lifestyle which describes a smaller minority of Utahns each year. This antiquated system provides no real benefits to our students. The smaller breaks would aid retention and make smoother the transition between grade levels. With significant breaks every couple months, students would experience less scholastic burnout. On the other hand, the lack of any one monolithic break would reduce the summer doldrums, that time a few weeks into summer vacation when mothers start to hear that dreaded “I’m bored.” From a financial perspective, year-round school system would enable more efficient use of our school facilities and alleviate some of the problems with overcrowding—which, in a state challenged to educate an enormous student population in as cost-effective a manner as possible, should be a paramount consideration.
No system is perfect, and year-round school does have its disadvantages. Accommodating a family’s need to keep all their children on the same track can be tricky. Traditionally summer events (summer jobs, family vacations) are compromised. Various extra-curricular programs would experience challenges. But I believe that the drawbacks pale in comparison to the educational benefits. Year-round school is not the only nor final answer to the dilemma in education (increasing funding is still crucial). But it can and should play a key role in improving the quality of education in Utah.