Resolved: We need a longer school year

Should we retain the 3-month summer vacation traditional in the US? This CNN columnist says no.

Born of agricultural needs, summer vacations are something many of us look fondly upon. My own family, for several generations, was composed of schoolteachers or schoolchildren, and were able to take vacations together. And while many vacations might consist of “just watching TV,” ours were rich in travel, adventure and education, the kind you can’t get in a classroom, so I can’t say they were wasted time.

And summer jobs can be very rewarding. Most of my high school classmates had them. Besides bringing in a little money, summer internships were excellent preparation for college and looked good on applications. Those not headed for college had a head start on a career.

But times change. If we had to structure a school year from scratch now, I doubt that it would include 2-3 months of non-school.

So what should it be?

It should be a local community decision. And in many cases across the country, certain school districts have decided to do just what you describe. There’s no reason that there should be a national mandate dictating the length of the school year.

I’d like an optional quarter with enrichment and review that isn’t too damaging to miss, so that kids who have family plans can skip it, and those who have working parents or parents not interested or unable to afford family time can take advantage of the year round option.

Absent that, I’d like a year round schedule with two week breaks four or five times a year, rather than 10 weeks all in the summer.

I would still like to retain some amount of time for travel without pulling my kid out of school, because those are precious good memory making learning opportunities for us. But, I’ll be honest, we only do two weeks at a stretch anyhow. Then the rest of the summer is scrambling to find and pay for “camps” and an chorus of “I’m boreds!” at home.

The problem with having two to three months off in the summer is that the students forget things and we need to waste time re-teaching them or refreshing their memories. What we need is not longer school years (in terms of days spent in class), but less lengthy periods without school. The summer vacation should be replaced by one or two week breaks spread throughout the year. That way there would be still be time for vacations and working, but the students (especially the younger ones) wouldn’t have to be re-taught what they’ve already learned.

In Peru we used to have a three-month vacation (Jan-Feb-Mar) and a two-week break in the last week of july and the first of August. Classes went from April 1st to December 22nd.

Nowadays, it’s mostly a two-month vacation (Jan-Feb), classes star on March 1st and you still get the two-week break ion July but also a one-week break in May and one in October. It means roughly two more actual week of classes, but it’s better because yoyu’re not always in class.

Let me just say that as a parent who works at home and can’t afford to go on vacation, I’m in favor of cancelling the summer vacation altogether.

June July August is a bit much. Reduce it to a month. August sounds as good as any month.

I would have thought weekends were a bigger problem. With school holidays you can send the kids to something or the other, camp, some summer activity or even summer school.

I’ve been in that position. I would have felt that way at the time. But to the argument in general, I haven’t seen any justification for the amount of time kids spend in school now, much less expanding it. We have turned our schools into child care services, and an argument in favor of this concept would consist of some actual evidence that more time in school produces better educated adults in the end rather than a some magical concept that time in school equals education.

One advantage of the long summer vacation is that it makes summer school a possibility for those students who need the extra time in school.

As a father with a child who lives 3000 miles away, the only time I get to spend more than a few days at a time with my daughter is Summer. And even that is split in half, with my oldest son travelling to visit his mother with her.

I see the sense in year round school, I really do, but I HATE the thought of never seeing my daughter for more than 2 weeks at once. That would suck.

Here is the schedule for our local year-round school. They get one month in the summer (plenty of time for family vacations), plus three additional breaks during the year where a family can take a nice trip as well. I would love to have this schedule running year-round. Instead, our local schools pack in summer school “enrichment” programs (along with the “I didn’t pass that class” makeup). However, the schedule is tougher to manage.

July 24 …First Day of School
Sept. 24 - Oct. 12 …FALL RECESS
Dec. 24 - Jan. 11 …WINTER RECESS
Mar. 25 - Apr. 12…SPRING RECESS
June 20 …Last Day of School

Well, no teachers union would ever accept this for one. For two, I think summers are a wonderful break for kids. Summers give kids an unstructured environment to think, read, explore, daydream, sleep, play, swim, and do whatever the hell they want. I think kids need that.

Hell, I think I need that.

I don’t know. I’m actually all for it…but I also remember being able to go to India for two months straight in the summer one year. That was brilliant. And dance camp. And all kinds of other things.

Maybe we could cut it down to a month? Because we do forget things.

Do what land strapped Singapore does and double up the number of classes by running two complete days. Students go (something like) 7am - 2pm, or 2pm - 7pm. Alternating, one year to the next. Pretty smart, I think.

We could do something somewhat similar. Shorten up the school year, lengthen the hours. Maybe 9am-6pm (working parents would love that!) for 6 mnths instead of 8. That way, two classes can get through in one year, with only one building. Kids would have 6 months to work, instead of 2 during their breaks.

(I’m not entirely sure I made myself clear there?)

That’s an interesting angle I hadn’t considered. Teachers’ unions would presumably be the biggest obstacle to lengthening the school year. In my district, the union fought tooth and nail against extending the school day by just 30 minutes - in the end, the district was forced to hire an additional three dozen teachers to get a 30 minute school day extension (hours for existing teachers actually dropped by 15 minutes).

All of the teachers I know support year-round school. Maybe they’re anomalies, but still.

Yeah, those summers off must get pretty boring.


Not everything in anyone’s life needs to be a balls to the wall quest for ultimate success. I already don’t like the idea that kids should be in multiple classes and travel teams and clubs at all times. Just let people be people, including letting kids be kids.

I get that there is, for some students, a real problem with forgetting what they learned, and in many cases, it’s with kids that are the most at risk for bad outcomes. But you know what - I don’t feel my children should be punished because someone else can’t get off their ass and make time for a trip to library, or who don’t take the time with their kids to talk about stuff, read books and generally make their home life as educational as possible. Let those kids sit in summer school - not mine. We do our job as parents.

I also get creeped out by this idea that school is the most important thing for kids. No, home and family are the most important things for kids, just as with adults. This push for all school all the time needs to back down.

Have three consecutive weeks off each season of the year. Same amount of time off as three months.