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The pros and cons of year-round school, according to experts

Trying to decide between year-round vs. traditional school? Here's a look at the pros and cons of year-round school.

The pros and cons of year-round school, according to experts

The average number of school days per year for grades K-12 in the U.S. clocks in at about 180, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. A traditional school calendar typically completes all 180 days by early summer, giving students a 10-12 week summer break before entering the next grade level. But what if there were another option that spread school days out over the year, allowing for more frequent breaks? Cue questioning the pros and cons of year-round school.

“Year-round school refers to a modified calendar with more frequent seasonal breaks throughout the school year and a shorter summer, not schooling every day,” explains Melissa Jones, teacher and founder of Girls Positivity Club, who spent nine years teaching in a year-round school. 

The year-round school model, which was initially made popular in the 1970s as a response to fast-growing student populations, has taken off recently in the South and West. Around one-quarter of South Carolina public schools use year-round calendars as of the 2022-2023 school year, and Washington state recently proposed “balanced calendar” grand funding for 45 school districts for 2023-2024.

A balanced calendar allows school days to be distributed more evenly year-round. Balanced calendars have also been considered a way for students to play “catch up” after remote and hybrid learning disrupted traditional school models in 2020 and 2021.

Here’s an expert look at the pros and cons of year-round school and how to determine whether or not it’s right for your family. 

What are the pros of year-round school?

Less summer learning loss 

Sometimes referred to as the “summer slide,” having to revisit concepts and information from the prior school year due to summer break is common for teachers. “When students are out of school for three months, there is a lot of ground to make up,” Jones notes. In her experience teaching at a year-long school, she found that students had less learning loss with a shorter summer break than a traditional school calendar.

Scott Perry, a project manager and writer at and father of two whose six-year-old son attends year-round school, also noticed this. “I think the schedule helps retain the information they are learning for longer due to the shorter but more frequent breaks,” he says.

There’s some evidence to support this. In one study published by the National Library of Medicine, authors found that year-round school calendars specifically improved academic achievement for low-income students. However, another study conducted at the University of Texas found that while the year-round calendar did improve summer learning, there was still a fall-off during other breaks in the school year.

“Students and their teachers are less stressed because of the short breaks from school throughout the year, which may also lessen incidents of student conflict.”


More frequent breaks mean less stress 

Year-long school schedules typically have two-week-long seasonal breaks in the fall, winter and spring. For students, more frequent breaks lead to less stress. 

“Students and their teachers are less stressed because of the short breaks from school throughout the year, which may also lessen incidents of student conflict,” says Joseph Adegboyega-Edun, an education consultant and college advisor of over 20 years. As a parent of a child in year-long school, Perry has noticed that having more frequent breaks has benefitted his son. “The breaks tend to fall right around the point where he tends to need a short mental break, which is great,” he says.

A year-long school model benefits teachers as well. “Stress levels tend to be very high right before breaks, so the two weeks allow teachers to tie up any loose ends at school, get caught up on grading and still have a substantial break to spend quality time with family or take a trip,” says Jones.

Taking family vacations during times when other students are still in school also helps make trips more cost-effective.  

Stronger bonds formed between staff and students 

“Year-round schooling enables students to get to know their teachers and other school staff better,” says Adegboyega-Edun. Parents, teachers and students have the opportunity to grow and foster relationships over the year, which helps promote a more harmonious school environment for students.

What are the cons of year-round school?

Fewer opportunities for families during summer 

So much summer enrichment is built around the traditional school year model, from summer camps to extracurricular activities. As John Blanchette, Vice President of Education and Training for Mathnasium, notes, finding programs that fit the year-round school’s two-week break model may be difficult.

“While it can be a challenge to find childcare, camps or other activities to enroll students in during the summer, it could be an even bigger challenge when you need to find these outlets every six weeks for two weeks at a time,” he says. The window for planning summer trips also becomes more limited with a year-long school model, which can be difficult for parents to plan around depending on their own work schedules and flexibility.

“While shorter breaks can reduce burnout, the lack of a long summer break could potentially lead to a different type of burnout, as students and teachers don’t have an extended period to reset.”


Fewer opportunities for summer jobs and internships 

For high school students, year-long school eliminates the possibility of earning income at a summer job or having a summer internship experience before they return to school. “Students who work in the summer will work less,” says Adegboyega-Edun. “Internships and summer camp schedules are disrupted because the year-round school schedule shortens kids’ summer break.” 

More potential for teacher and student burnout 

“While shorter breaks can reduce burnout, the lack of a long summer break could potentially lead to a different type of burnout, as students and teachers don’t have an extended period to reset,” says Jeff Jarvis, a special education middle school teacher at A.C Stelle Middle School in Calabasas, California. 

Not having an extended summer break eliminates the opportunity for kids to truly unplug and also puts added stress on teachers. “Teachers are often experiencing extreme burnout by the end of the school year and need time to reset,” says Jones. 

Additionally, teachers often have to do professional development classes to keep their licenses updated, which they typically schedule during the long summer break.

How to decide if year-round school is right for your child

Still not sure if year-round school is right for your child? Here are some questions and considerations to take to decide.

What’s the impact on our family’s schedule, time together and travel? 

Jones recommends clarifying your priorities as a family and honestly evaluating how this decision would impact your time spent together. “First, consider how the year-round school calendar fits your work, childcare, and family activities,” she says. “Next, consider the pros and cons of shorter breaks throughout the year versus longer summer vacations. Finally, consider your value on quality family time and vacations and how you like to create memories together.”

How will year-round school benefit my child academically? 

If you’ve noticed your child needs help with retaining information at the start of each school year, Jones says that year-long school could be a way to help with your child’s learning progression to prevent them from losing knowledge over the long summer break. However, year-long school isn’t the only method for achieving this. If a traditional school model works well for your child in every other aspect, consider other summer learning opportunities as another option.  

Can my child adjust to the new schedule? 

Switching from a traditional school model to a year-long school is an adjustment that not every child can overcome without challenges. 

“Think about your child’s flexibility in adapting to change and learning style,” says Jones. “Are they comfortable with changing routines and shorter breaks?”

Younger and older children may have different needs in this area if they’ve either just entered traditional school over the last few years or are entering middle or high school and have adapted to the conventional model long-term, notes Jones.

“Ask yourself how a year-round school schedule may impact your child’s participation in sports, arts or summer camps.”


Will extracurricular activities be affected? 

While many year-long schools pride themselves on the extracurricular programs offered throughout the year and during breaks, if an activity like playing in a summer sports league is important to your child, a year-long school schedule may pose conflicts.

“Ask yourself how a year-round school schedule may impact your child’s participation in sports, arts or summer camps,” says Jones. “Make sure they’ll have enough time for their interests.”

What support does the year-round school provide? 

“Year-round school schedules may differ from traditional school calendars, requiring parents to adjust their work schedules or find suitable childcare options during shorter breaks,” says Jones. Because of this, it’s essential to consider the impact on family routines and ensure necessary arrangements can be made. 

“First, find out about the school’s resources, services and programs — then, consider if they meet your child’s needs and if the school prioritizes student well-being and individual attention,” recommends Jones.

The bottom line on the pros and cons of year-round school

Ultimately, as with any learning model, there are pros and cons of year-round school. As Jones concludes, “Understanding your child’s unique needs, preferences and aspirations will help guide your decision-making when determining whether a year-round school fits them — and you.”