Teachers whose school districts are about to change to a year-round schedule need to make a few key preparations. Fortunately, most of the changes will not be dramatic — especially if the district is going to a single-track school system — because the calendar usually still consists of the same 180 days of instruction that are in a traditional schedule.
The big difference in year-round schools is that students will no longer be off for the entire summer. Instead, in the most common year-round example, the big chunk of time normally taken off in the summer gets broken up and spread out so students have three two-week breaks during the school year and a four-week break during the summer.
In the past, school systems typically took summers off so children could help with family farming chores. Many educators today believe this break is no longer necessary, and they fear students suffer a “brain drain” during the two-plus months that most schools are off during the summer.
Year-round schools run on either multi-track or single-track calendars, which are the most common. In a single-track schedule, the school calendar is stretched out over a year and all of the students attend at the same time.
Multi-track schedules, meanwhile, are typically used by school systems that are short on classroom space. In this calendar, both students and teachers are divided into four or five tracks. Typically, three of the tracks are in school while the fourth is on vacation. When that track returns from vacation, one of the other tracks takes its break. This system allows districts to increase their seating capacity without constructing more buildings.
Teachers who are changing from traditional to year-round school schedules will experience a disruption in their schedules and may have concerns about how the switch will affect their curriculm — and their students. Fortunately, the National Education Association has compiled research on best practices for year-round education that teachers can use to answer questions and make adjustments to their plan for the year. This research is also a valuable resource for generating new ideas to use in planning sessions with administrators.
Lesson plans may need to be rebuilt to make sure a two-week break won’t interrupt teaching of an important concept. Also, teachers will want to add a day or two after a two-week break to do a quick refresher of concepts taught right before everybody left.
Here’s some more good news: according to an Education World article, some teachers say they feel more energized by a year-round schedule because there’s always a nice break coming up in the near future. Knowing that many year-round educators schedule actually like it can help teachers ease into the new schedule, and it will also help them to ease parents and students into the idea of the new calendar.
Teachers working in a multi-track school system can face red tape and disagreements over resources. They should get together with the teachers they share classrooms with and come to an agreement on how to use the classroom space in order to accommodate everyone’s needs. In addition, everybody should agree on where things will be stored when they are not in the room.
Teachers who are parents must prepare for the fact that year-round schedules can conflict with family life, especially those who do not live in the district where they teach. Teachers’ children could end up on a completely different schedule, making vacations difficult to plan. Teachers who are parents may need to reconfigure their schedules with spouses and day care providers in order to determine who will look after children at home.