Kristin Brown says it wasn't hard to give up part of her summer vacation. "I didn't like the break because I got bored and I forgot everything I learned," says the eighth-grader at a year-round public school in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Kristin's school, Cason Lane Academy, opened four years ago on a year-round calendar, with a short summer break and longer vacations throughout the year. It also extended the day for academic and enrichment programs to run from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. or 7 p.m.
"The objective is to create a broader window for children to have broader learning experiences in," says principal Susan Gendrich-Cameron. "We needed the time and ... parents needed the day care." She adds that the schedule helps stem summer learning loss, particularly in math and spelling. It also can sidestep the burn-out common in the traditional calendar. "Just about every time you're thinking 'it's time for a break,' you get one," says Gail Tansil, who has two children at Cason Lane.
Advocates of year-round schools say the schedule reduces absenteeism, makes finding day care over summer break easier, and allows families to take vacations at off-peak times. But others say the adjustment can be difficult. Many parents can't find day care during odd vacation times, and having children at schools with different schedules is often difficult to navigate.
Murfreesboro's after-school program, which began districtwide 13 years ago, also has many supporters. Fifty percent of the city's 5,400 students spend time after school and during vacations at their schools. The program is self-sufficient, but has a manageable weekly fee of $25 per family. For many working parents, it is a real life-saver. "As a single mother, I don't mean to use that as a crutch, but it's hard to run them around," says Kristin's mother Jane Brown, who has two other children at Cason Lane.
"I do it, but having it at the school makes it a lot easier."