Chicago Tests a Year-Round School Schedule

Many Chicago elementary school students will head back to school in early August.


Some of Chicago's public elementary school students better brace themselves for an all new kind of fun this summer: They will be spending it in school. And we're not talking about the summer school that students are sent to for remedial purposes.

The Chicago Board of Education recently voted to put more than a quarter of elementary school students in the nation's third-largest school district on a "year-round" schedule. The concept might sound like a grueling punishment, but proponents say the switch will lead to better student retention of knowledge and less time being spent playing catch-up in the fall, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Parents aren't so sure. They say a year-round calendar will complicate their attempts to juggle family schedules and child care.

Although the new calendar year for the 132 schools making the change will be different, it is not exactly radical. Students at the year-round schools will spend 170 days in the classroom and get to leave in mid-June—just as their traditional counterparts do. But the new school year will start up again during the first week of August, rather than around Labor Day, and will include frequent short breaks throughout the year.

Chicago public schools CEO Ron Huberman is sticking to his guns. "As Mayor Daley has said time and time again, we must use every tool at our disposal to better educate our students," Huberman said at a news conference at Smyth Elementary in the South Loop neighborhood, one of the schools that is switching to the new schedule. During the speech, he noted the potential safety benefits of year-round school, saying that the new calendar could keep children "out of harm's way."

The National Association for Year-Round Education says there are about 7,000 U.S. schools—mostly elementaries—on a year-round schedule. And the group says more inner-city schools are going year-round.

What do you think? Is year-round schooling truly an educational tool that leads to learning rewards? Or is it a make-believe panacea that does more harm than good?

education reform
public schools