Don’t mess with the school calendar.
That was the message from respondents to the Reporter Newspapers’ latest community survey when asked about the possibility of year-round school and how best to handle snow days.
The survey was conducted by 1Q.com via cellphones to 200 residents in Reporter Newspapers communities. The results are not scientific.
Strong responses came from one simple question: Should metro Atlanta students go to school year-round, with shorter breaks spread through the year, rather than employ a school calendar with a long summer break?
“No,” a 32-year-old Atlanta man replied. “That is balderdash.”
Many agreed with him. In fact, respondents were against the idea of year-round school by three to one. Some were strongly against.
“No. Absolutely not,” a 37-year-old Dunwoody woman said. “Hell no! Children need down time and [to] focus on just playing and being kids. Year-round schooling is the dumbest idea ever,” a 42-year-old DeKalb County man said.
“I think that a summer break is the one thing that helped get me through the monotony of the school year,” a 59-year-old Atlanta man said.
“Without the break to look forward to, the entire year would be a seemingly endless year of the same. A summer break also takes on the realization of the fact that you’ve just hit the next level. That’s a true mental reward!”
Advocates of year-round school, although vastly outnumbered, marshalled less emotional arguments in favor of the plan.
A 70-year-old Brookhaven woman proposed that a school calendar with several breaks of about a month each spread throughout the year would benefit learning. “I feel children lose too much knowledge during three months off and the first four to six weeks of the start of school is for review. This is particularly true for early and middle school.”
A 37-year-old Brookhaven woman argued a year-round school calendar should be designed “with balanced breaks throughout the year to give kids the downtime they need. The variable summer and school schedules are difficult to manage for working parents. The curriculum could be better paced and balanced.”
Still, a long summer break was far and away more popular among respondents to the survey.
“Kids need the summer off to travel, go to camp and do various other summer activities,” a 64-year-old Sandy Springs woman said. “I taught school for 36 years and when they started having fall breaks the kids were awful!”
The survey also asked respondents about another perennial school scheduling question: how best to make up the unexpected days off that are universally known as “snow days.” Should the schools make up the time by adding hours to the day or days to the school year — or just forget about them? With last winter’s bad weather, local school districts tried a variety of those options.
Given five possible answers, the largest group of respondents (38.5 percent) said the schools should let students work from home by declaring digital work days — an increasingly popular tactic with school districts. About half as many thought the days should be added to the end of the year (19.5 percent) or scattered throughout the year and added to holiday breaks (18 percent).
Only 14.5 percent thought school districts should forget about the days, but an even smaller group, just 9.5 percent, thought the hours should be added to the end of other school days.
Here’s what some other respondents had to say about a year-round school calendar:
“Children need down time and time with the parents. They need camps and summer activities. And the schools suck, so what good will it do?”
– 50-year-old Sandy Springs man
“Too many vacations are hard for working parents.”
– 64-year-old Atlanta woman
“A shorter break would be better — late June to mid-August. It gives kids some separation between years, some time to decompress and play, and to take classes or camp. Really, everyone gets stupid and lazy in the middle of summer — it just makes sense for students to skip that time.”
– 50-year-old Sandy Springs man
“I do not believe going to year-round school calendars serves the children or families well. Children need to have time off from school and experience the joys of childhood summer. Also, it will create a completely different dynamic and schedule for both working and non-working parents. I do think it could be beneficial to have more structured activities in the summer so kids don’t get bored. Boredom can be an ugly monster in the making.”
– 59-year-old Sandy Springs woman
“[Year-round school should be imposed] only if they move to a four-day week, let students sleep in more, and give periodic two-week breaks throughout the year.”
– 25-year-old Brookhaven man
“I think both options have positive and negative effects. Year-round school is great, as it allows smaller breaks throughout the year while also helping broaden the learning process to increase the amount of knowledge taught each year. However, some students learn differently and need a longer break. So it just depends on the student, but overall I do think year-round school has more benefits.”
– 26-year-old DeKalb County woman
1Q is an Atlanta-based start-up that sends questions and surveys to a cellphone via app or text messages. Respondents are paid 50 cents per answer, through PayPal, for sharing their opinions. Payments may also be donated directly to charity. Sign up to be included in our local community polls at 1Q.com/reporter or by texting “REPORTER” to 86312.