In some areas, schools are moving towards a multi-track schedule. This means that students are starting at different times to allow more students to enroll and to combat overcrowding. A multi-track schedule might look like four groups of students and teachers. When group one is on break, the other groups are in sessions. A multi-track school calendar allows more students to utilize school resources. It also allows teachers to form closer relationships with families as the same students and teachers usually stay on the same track.
However, there are several downsides to a multi-track schedule. Students, especially those with learning disabilities, do not thrive with this schedule. School routines are hard to establish when there is constant changing of classrooms. Teachers on a multi-track calendar have to share classrooms with other teachers. They have to pack up their personal supplies before each break and set them back up again in a different classroom after the break. The multi-track calendar has many benefits in regards to overcrowding but students benefit more academically from a single-track year-round calendar.
When on a traditional schedule, students often forget much of what they learned. Students from disadvantaged homes suffer the most from long breaks. This leads to teachers having to spend precious classroom time repeating lessons. Based on a survey from the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA), teachers spend an average of four weeks repeating lessons. Shorter breaks allow students to retain their knowledge.
Learning doesn’t come easy for all children. Students with learning disabilities and those struggling benefit from a year-round calendar. This allows for remediation every few weeks rather than waiting until summer. This helps struggling students stay on track with the rest of their peers. It is a huge benefit to be able to help the student as learning issues occur rather than waiting several months as the student gets further and further behind.
Stress levels cannot be ignored. School is stressful for both students and teachers. Shorter, frequent breaks allow both students and teachers to reduce their stress level. Knowing that in just a few weeks a break is coming helps alleviate the everyday stress of teaching and learning.
With a traditional schedule, Kindergarten students must wait until the beginning of the year to start school. A non-traditional schedule allows Kindergarten students to begin school when they are ready. Older students are also able to advance to higher grades easier. They don’t have to wait an entire year to be bumped up to a different level. As space permits, they can seamlessly switch classes after terms.
A large amount of teacher stress comes from preparing their students for standardized testing. The NSLA found that students usually score lower at the end of the summer break than they do at the beginning. A year-round schedule allows teachers to ensure their students don’t forget their learning.
While some families find a traditional school calendar to be beneficial, many families enjoy the benefits of a year-round schedule. Working parents do not have to struggle to find childcare for the entire summer. On the flip side, families do have to find childcare during breaks. This is easier to handle as there are enrichment and remediation programs going through these times.
It does cost the district more money in administrative costs to operate on a year-round schedule. Teachers and other staff are generally paid more due to being in the building more often. While this may seem like a downside, it’s not. Districts can actually save money by operating on a nontraditional schedule. Students have fewer absences, allowing for higher state funding. The district’s operating cost per student goes down with a nontraditional schedule. This is especially true of schools operating on a multi-track schedule.
A nontraditional school calendar does have many drawbacks. It takes additional planning and adapting for teachers to thrive. The obstacles teachers face are not impossible to overcome but they are a struggle. It takes time, energy and support from the district for teachers to handle year-round schooling. This is especially true for teachers switching from a traditional school schedule. First-time teachers can usually adapt quickly to the year-round environment while long-time teachers take additional time.
Since year-round school is not the norm, extracurricular programs may find it hard to schedule activities involving other schools. With school being on a break every few weeks, scheduling practice is difficult. Students and teachers involved in sports may find it a challenge to participate in games with other schools. This is not an insurmountable problem but it does require additional attention and planning. Coaches and teachers can share the job to alleviate some of the scheduling issues.
Having summers off is a huge benefit for most teachers. With a year-round schedule, teachers would not have a large break. Rather, they would have several short breaks throughout the year. This is the biggest drawback for most teachers. Often, summer is when teachers plan for the upcoming year, spend time with their families or even take on a second job for additional income.
While teachers are not able to take on a summer job with a year-round schedule, they do have the opportunity to work additional days during breaks. A large benefit of a nontraditional schedule is that schools can offer additional classes or one-on-one tutoring during breaks. This allows students to get extra help and teachers to earn additional income.
Teachers need to have a plan to handle transfer students coming from a traditional school. Often, students coming from a traditional school find themselves needing additional help. This is when extra learning sessions during breaks are helpful. The struggling student can quickly catch up to the rest of their class instead of falling behind.
Overall, studies show that teachers operating within a year-round schedule face less stress. They have the ability to regroup and plan every season instead of waiting until summer. This allows for a calmer working environment. Teachers have the ability to earn a higher income with a nontraditional schedule by working during break sessions. Also, teachers have the option to work less by splitting a one year contract with another teacher. A year-round school calendar has several advantages over a traditional calendar. While it may take some time for students, teachers, and families to adjust to the schedule; the benefits are undeniable.