Year-round pilot program being considered for Florida schools

Program could help cut down on learning loss without sacrificing break time

Florida Sen. Linda Stewart is eager to help roll out a year-round school pilot program.

The Florida Department of Education will accept five applications from schools statewide.

The program begins in the 2024 - 2025 school year for grades K-5.

It will still be a 180-day school year, but districts will trade the long summer break for multiple breaks throughout the year.

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Sen. Stewart noticed some parents were opposed to it immediately.

“People don’t understand: it’s voluntary, and their school may never have it,” Stewart said.

Stewart believes it could help students better retain what they learned during school.

“This is to catch people up, so they don’t have that brain drain in the summer,” Stewart said.

She said the program will help determine whether year-round school could help combat learning loss, especially since students lost ample classroom time during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If we don’t have an alternative for some of these kids, they’re (going to) stay behind. They won’t catch up,” Stewart said.

Some Florida schools tried year-round education in the 1990s but reverted back to traditional learning soon after.

Dr. Charles Ballinger is the Executive Director Emeritus of the National Association for Year-Round Education.

He remembers when Florida schools first tried the modified calendar.

Ballinger said select schools used the multi-track system, which means some students were on vacation while others were in class and vice versa. He said schools used this method to combat overcrowding.

Although this time it may be a different approach, he still supports the measure.

“Understand first and foremost, the chief purpose of schools is to help students learn the most that they can to achieve the highest level that they can,” Ballinger said.

He said a long summer break causes students to forget what they have learned by the time the next semester rolls around.

“Most students (benefit) by shorter and more frequent vacations,” Ballinger said.

News 6 took a poll asking parents whether parents would prefer year-round or traditional school.

The results show 76% prefer traditional and 26% want to try year-round education.

Some parents are against the idea because they want to take their children on vacation or sign them up for summer activities, like sports teams.

“Give the idea a chance,” Ballinger said.

State education leaders will use the next year to coordinate after school programs, transportation and lunch for students who attend participating schools.

As for teachers, Ballinger said several teachers are open to the idea of having breaks more frequently and being paid through the entire year.

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About the Author:

Treasure joined News 6 at the start of 2021, coming to the Sunshine State from Michigan.