The Coronavirus has upended nearly every aspect of our lives—forcing thousands of businesses to close (many permanently), shuttered most schools until next fall, and skyrocketed unemployment.
Add to this the social and emotional cost. I can only wonder how the children and families who were already experiencing hard times are now handling this.
While this crisis presents a near-term national challenge unlike any other, we need to also think about the future beyond the virus.
This leads to an educational concept we should consider: year-round school.
While current educational schedules may meet the needs of some, it’s clear that some children need to more hours per day and more days per year in class in order to achieve even today’s academic standards. Not all children can learn the same amount of information in the same amount of time. Aptitude is one issue, but there many other factors that can contribute to a child’s slower rate of learning, such as having only one parent, English not being their primary language, and poverty. Consequently, to ensure the effective education of all children, some children will need a longer day and a longer year.
One avenue for introducing a modified education schedule is a concept promoted by ACTE, the “innovation district,” which is conceptually similar to a charter school, but is implement at a district level. Innovation status allows for a district to have additional flexibility in several areas.
One district that has been approved for “innovation district” status is Corinth, Mississippi, governed by Mississippi Department of Education. This district has made major changes, all designed to enhance the learning of students. Corinth now operates on a revised calendar that involves four 9-week blocks, with three 3-week sessions in which students who are behind, or students desiring additional learning, can remain in school, thereby extending the year to 210 days. The Christmas break remains and a shortened summer vacation is still available.
Some states resist the idea of an innovation district, fiercely protecting the status quo. So an alternative method would be to hire teachers under different annual contracts. For example, teachers could choose to work for nine months, ten months, or eleven months. Those teachers could work with students who need more learning time before moving to the next level, or as mentors for new teachers before the start of a new school year. However, innovation districts are preferable due to greater flexibility.
As Don Nielsen, program chair to ACTE explains, “Providing students with access to gifted teachers during a longer day and a longer year would create a good chance of keeping kids in school through graduation, ready to secure good jobs or more education.”
Year round school could significantly benefit the social and emotional learning of these students yielding great results for the students and our country.