Ten years ago, according to U.S. Education Department statistics, roughly 1.5 million public school children attended year-round school. Six years ago, that number increased to 2 million. By 2008—the most recent figures available—nearly 2.5 million pupils were on a year-round schedule. Since then, some of the nation’s largest districts have adopted or expanded year-round education, or YRE, in their schools.What’s more, some education groups predict that by 2012 more than 5 million students — about 10 percent of all children enrolled in American public schools — could be going to school year-round.

“The idea of a longer school year, I think, makes sense,” said President Obama in a recent interview on NBC’s TODAY show. “Students are losing a lot of what they learn during the school year during the summer.” The phenomenon is often called “spring slide” or “summer slump” and because of this phenomenon, teachers often devote much of the first few months in the fall reviewing material that was taught the previous year—which many argue is hardly efficient for teachers or their students.

Beyond this phenomenon, many schools and parents also see financial benefits to YRE as well as an increased level of academic achievement in students who have the opportunity to learn more and at a pace that hampers burnout.

On the contrary, one of the largest arguments against YRE is that students will be in school thirty to forty more days per year and that teacher vacation time will be reduced. However, most year-round schools actually operate on a modified school year schedule. Instead of adding days to the school year, the traditional 180-day calendar is divided into more manageable segments. These segments do create a schedule that requires students to attend school on a more consistent basis throughout the year, but many argue that it does not equate to less time for teacher and student breaks.

If your school or district is considering making the switch to a year-round schedule, here are a few tips to communicating with parents and students:

  • Ask your educators for their input
    The prospect of change is hard for everyone, but it can be best coped with when people feel included in the decision-making process. Start by reaching out with the goals of transparency and discourse. Announce in-person or writing the consideration of making the switch to YRE and the reasoning why. Then, ask for feedback and be sure to ask these key questions:

    • What are their thoughts?
    • What are their concerns?
    • How do they anticipate their students would adjust to a switch?
    • Can they share personal anecdotes or industry insight that should be considered?

As added incentive for input, offer educators a token of appreciation for their time to participate in the decision-making process. Try a Hampton Portfolio or a Color Play Puzzle Picture Frame.

  • Consider the pros and cons for all those affected

From administration and educators to students, parents and community members, a move to a year-round calendar will impact everyone in different ways. It’s important to consider these impacts in order to decide if the change is right for your school, but also to help prepare for communication.

  • Develop points based on pros and cons
    After creating an exhaustive list of the pros and cons of a new schedule, develop key messages and talking points that can be used when having discussions with teachers, parents and students. Essentially, a key message is a short and memorable sentence that concisely conveys a message or stance. Talking points are facts or figures—quick nuggets of information that can be supported with research or data—that support a key message. Going over the pros and cons for each audience in advance of a formal discussion or the adoption of an YRE calendar will help anticipate concerns. This in turn enables you to develop answers ahead of time in order to provide information quickly and accurately.
  • Open the door for conversations and input through marketing materials and town-hall style forums
    Fact sheets, frequently asked questions handouts, informational brochures, case studies from other schools and more can all be bundled and used to open the door on YRE conversations with educators, parents and community members. Distribute these resources in folders, binders or mini tote bags. Host public meetings that encourage discussion and debate when considering the switch to a year-round schedule or a press conference with a Q-and-A session.
  • Celebrate the decision
    Share the reasoning, tout the benefits and inspire pride in your educators and their curriculum. Create a new tagline that speaks to your school’s approach and include it on polos for teachers and administrators as well as Spirit Sportpacks or Jersey Scarves for students and parents.

Is year-round school for your school? Consider the research, ask your administrators and educators and then get parents on board with whatever your school decides.

1-4 Johnson, Alex. “Year-round School Gains Ground around U.S. – TODAY People – TODAYshow.com.” TODAYshow.com. 27 Oct. 2010. Web. 11 Dec. 2010.

5 Wengard, J. “The Modified School Year’s Positive Impact on Education.” Associated Content. Web. 11 Dec. 2010.

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