"You get beginning-of-the-year enthusiasm and end-of-the-year relief four times a year!"
The list of potential advantages and disadvantages of year-round programs published by the Mooresville School District looks familiar and safe. Nothing here to get too worried about; nothing to cause too much excitement. Only slowly does the penny drop: Most of the advantages benefit children and their families; the disadvantages are largely inconveniences for adults, most of them in the school system.
Among the advantages cited by the district:
Perhaps the best advantage of all, quips Roger Hyatt, principal of the Park View Optional Year-Round School, is that, "You get beginning-of-the-year enthusiasm and end-of-the-year relief four times a year!"
What about the potential disadvantages? There are several:
Nevertheless, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the potential benefits to families and children far outweigh the potential inconvenience for adults and school personnel. Mooresville is an interesting community and Park View a good example of what the district is trying to accomplish.
The community is located a few miles north of Charlotte, North Carolina, a city district located within a larger county school system. It enrolls approximately 3,000 students from kindergarten through grade 12.
Mooresville adopted a "one-step-at-a-time" approach to year-round education. The year-round calendar was implemented gradually, beginning with the lower grades. It is now being implemented through the 7th grade level, meaning that all district K-7 students can now take advantage of year-round programs on a voluntary basis. Parents are offered a traditional calendar, combining 180 days with a long summer vacation, and a year-round calendar (45 days in school alternating with 15 days off) in the same school.
The results are interesting. In the two elementary schools (including Park View) and one intermediate school offering both calendars, only one-third of the parents initially chose the year-round program. Today, two-thirds of the parents have opted for year-round education for their children. Significantly, teachers and teacher assistants for the year-round programs were also selected from volunteers. No teacher is forced to adapt to the new schedule. In fact, Mooresville reports that more teachers volunteered for the year-round program than could be accommodated.
Key elements of the program at Park View include before- and after-school care and extended-learning opportunities during the 10-15 day intersessions. The extended-learning programs include both remediation and enrichment activities. And they also include developmental care offering a variety of interesting activities -- students can take advantage of golf clinics sponsored by a local professional; enjoy art classes oriented around animals and nature; or camp out at a lake in an environmental education adventure.
"The old calendar was a lot easier on us. But I know the new calendar is a lot better for most of these kids," says principal Roger Hyatt.
For additional information:
Park View Optional Year-Round School
251 West McNeely Avenue
Mooresville, NC 28115