Rant & Rave

By Melissa Lee Dobos

Tuesday, March 18, 1997

Year-round school
is a good idea

BRRRRINGG! What's that sound? A school bell in mid-July? It's the sound that American students will be hearing in more than 2,500 schools across the nation as year-round schooling takes effect. More and more schools are looking at the option and are beginning to ask, "What if?"

Many might see this growing trend as a student's nightmare come true, but upon closer look, it becomes an attractive alternative to traditional schooling.

In year-round education, the standard 180 school days are distributed throughout 12 months, instead of being squeezed in between September and June. This means that students attending a year-round school have shorter, more frequent vacations, or intersessions, throughout the year, instead of one three-month summer vacation.

During the traditional long summer vacation, students are left numb after the shock of learning. In preserving this Neolithic practice built around the farming calendar, we are cheating students out of time that could be put to better use than for the purposes of wave watching and channel surfing.

If year-round school is implemented, students and teachers would not need to spend time recovering from "summer learning loss." The time gained could increase student learning, and less time would be spent in the fall reviewing old material.

The extended learning opportunities would be a huge benefit, making students more competitive on a global scale, more competent, and in turn, confident.

IN addition, evenly placed instruction and frequent breaks tend to lessen burn out among students and teachers. When burn out decreases, attendance improves. Students and teachers will also have the opportunity to take vacations during off seasons when hotel occupancy and price rates are lower.

Year-round schools also allow campus facilities to be in use for a longer period of time, and data has shown that because of this continuous occupancy, vandalism drastically decreases.

If the entire school is on the same year-round schedule, it is on a single track program and the benefit is primarily educational. In addition to this educational benefit, a school using a multi-track, year-round schedule -- in which one-fourth to one-third of students are on vacation on any given school day -- can realize an added economic benefit. Multi-tracking enables a school to enroll about 25 to 30 percent more students beyond its design capability.

ADOPTING a multi-track, year-round schedule can actually save money two ways. One way is by limiting new construction. Another is by eliminating the need to build new schools. Money saved this way can then be diverted to upgrade old facilities or can be spent on more urgent educational needs.

In a multi-track setting, fewer students alleviates overcrowding and enhances student safety. Staff can better monitor attendance, tardiness and discipline problems when buildings are not overcrowded.

Flexibility of scheduling will also enable transfer students or those who miss school because of illness to make up "learning loss" through appropriate placement within the multi-track schedule.

The benefits of year-round schooling seem to be endless. Not only does it preserve a continuum of learning, but in addition, it keeps students out of trouble and in the classroom.

While some students might not be crazy about hearing that year-round bell toll, we can do the right thing now and always say, "You'll thank me later."

Melissa Lee Dobos is the First Place Senior winner
for editorial writing in the Journalism Day writing competition
held recently at the University of Hawaii at Manoa She is a
student at Sacred Hearts Academy. More than 100 students
from 16 schools participated in the competition.

Rant & Rave is a Tuesday Star-Bulletin feature allowing those 12 to 22 to serve up fresh perspectives. Speak up by fax at 523-8509; by answering machine at 525-8666; snail mail at P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu 96802; or e-mail, features@starbulletin.com

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