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Editorial - Year-round school?

October 09, 1997

Everyone agrees that the current school calendar - nine months on and three months off - is derived from America's agricultural past, when children were needed at home in the summer for farm chores. But the debate about what to replace it with, or whether it needs to be replaced at all, is far from settled.

After a year of considering what to do, a Berkeley County Board of Education task force last week recommended a pilot program to take the study to the next step.

Under the plan, the school system would select a pilot school to operate on a new schedule - 45 days on then 15 off - all through the year. That school would also be paired with another school, so that children whose parents didn't want them attending classes year-round would have an option within their district.

Staff could also choose not to participate in the year-round schedule, which would be tested at the pilot school for three years.

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Based on comments by task force members, the reason they're promoting this plan is because students tend to forget much of what they've learned during the summer layoff. That means that when classes resume, teachers spend much precious classroom time getting students back to where they were, just three months before.

Keeping students on track is a laudable goal, but year-round school will be more expensive, because even though it means that buildings will be more efficiently utilized, it will take additional teachers, or additional pay for the current staff.

Under the current schedule, teachers now get three months off. Under the new proposed schedule, they'll get 15 days each quarter, or about two months off per year. Will they accept the loss of a month's time off for no additional compensation?

We don't believe they will. And that's just one problem associated with the idea; teachers trying to take summer classes to maintain their certifications might find it impossible with this schedule. The Berkeley County task force's move to try this idea at one school before pushing for its implementation system-wide was a wise one.

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