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Columns

August 30, 2008

The case for a longer school year

Ah, summer vacation.

Trips to the pool and the park and the lake, leisurely dinners and late bedtimes, barbecues and ice cream cones, camping trips, amusement park rides and days at the beach.

At the end of June, it stretches ahead like an endless ray of sunshine. No more pencils, no more books. No more lunches to make, no buses to catch, no after-school-activity drop-offs and pick-ups. Just a glorious, sun- and fun-filled break from the routine.

But by mid-August, the 10-week rollercoaster ride that is summer vacation starts to careen out of control. The summer pleasures that once seemed so exciting begin to get old. My kids are sick of camping and bored with the pool, cranky from too many late nights and sluggish from too many lazy mornings, stir-crazy and on each other's last nerve.

Gradually, thoughts turn to new jeans and shiny folders and who's in which class. And all of a sudden, the rollercoaster is back on track and climbing toward an exciting new destination: the first day of school.

As we check off the school supplies, clean out the closets and ease into earlier bedtimes, I find myself breathing a sigh of relief _ and wondering whether 10 weeks of summer vacation is too long.

After all, the days of kids spending the summer harvesting crops are gone, and many schools have already changed with the times. According to the National Association for Year-Round Education, about 3,000 schools across the country, including 21 in New York, have a "year-round calendar."

For most, this does not mean more days in session, but rather, the 180 days are redistributed to create a more-balanced schedule, such as four nine-week terms broken up by three-week vacations, with five weeks off in the summer.

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