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Year Round School: How It Works and Why It’s Awesome!

My kids attend year round school.  And it’s public school, not a private or homeschool situation.

Whenever I make this statement to people who don’t live in my area, I always get strange looks and LOTS of question. 

Year round school?  Like all the time?  Do they ever get time off?  Don’t your kids hate that?  Why in the world would you want to do that?

We live in North Carolina, in the largest school districts in the state. 

Our area is a wonderful place to live, and towns in our county are consistently ranked among the top 10 places to live in the United States.  Consequently, the population is booming around here. 

With more residents comes more kids, so some 20-odd years ago, our school district started offering a year round school calendar option in some elementary and middle schools, to alleviate overcrowding.  (All high school are on a traditional calendar, with summers off.)

Year Round School:  How It’s Set Up

How does a year round school calendar work?  It’s actually less complicated than you’d think.  

Basically, the school’s population is split into four separate groups: Track 1, Track 2, Track 3, and Track 4.  

At any given point in time on the year-round school calendar, only three of the four tracks are in session at the school while the other track is out on a break.

The schedule for year round school is designed so that children are in class for 9 weeks, then they get a three week break.   We have exactly the same amount of time off that traditional schools do, it’s just spread out throughout the year.

For example, the school year starts just after the 4th of July for all year-round schools, but only tracks 1, 2, and 3 will start school that day.  Three weeks later, track 3 will leave for a break, and track 4 will start school.  

Here’s what our official year-round school calendar example looks like:

year round public school calendar

Picture from the Wake County Public School System 

Track 1 is in red, track 2 is in blue, track 3 is in yellow, and track 4 is in green.  Orange is a day off for all students, and gray signifies weekends.  White are break days for the track in that row.

What Does The Year Round School Calendar Accomplish? 

By following this year round school calendar, our school system can educated 1/3 more students in the buildings and facilities we already have. 

With the year round school calendar, our school system can take a building just big enough for 900 students, and use it to educate 1,200 students.   This really eases the overcrowding that plagues lots of school systems.

I remember this looking insane to me the first time I looked at it, but once I figured out how to read this calendar, it became pretty clear.  

Once assigned a track, a student will remain on that schedule from year to year, for their entire education in that particular school, unless parents request a change.  All siblings are also assigned to the same track.

It’s basically like having four tiny schools in one large building. 

Tracks can consist of anywhere from 1 to 3 classrooms per grade, depending on how many kids are assigned to that track. 

How It Works For Us

We are on track 2, and in our elementary school, this was a single class track.  That means there is only one teacher for each grade.  Consequently, my kids were in in class with the same 20 to 24 kids for several years.

The track size got larger once they hit middle school, but it wasn’t too overwhelming.  

I currently have a 6th grader and a 8th grader, so we’ve been doing this year round school thing for a while.  It’s really all my kids have ever known, and we’ve found that it works really well for us.  

Information retention between grades has been great, and our three week track outs usually come just as my kids are getting burned out or a little overwhelmed.

On our particular track, my kids are in school during the hottest and the coldest times of the year. 

My kids are in classes for most of June, July, and August, which are usually super hot here in North Carolina. 

They’re also in during January and the majority of February, which are super cold. 

My favorite breaks are in November and May when the weather is great in NC.

I’m often asked if my kids get “a Summer.”  I can assure you that they do.  We pack lots of fun stuff into their time off during the summer months. 

We spend lots of days at the pool, and do lots of other normal summer activities.  They both participate in swim teams at the local YMCA. 

They did evening vacation bible school at local churches and have gone to summer camps during their breaks.  They get all the hallmarks of a typical “Summer.”

But we also get awesome Winter, Spring, and Fall breaks!  My kids usually get to enjoy at least one snow day without having to make up the time at school. 

We get to go visit cool places when they are slam packed full of people because everyone else is in school.  We get to enjoy our time off during all four seasons, instead of just one.

The Child Care Situation

I’ve often been asked about the child care situation for year-round school.  It’s basically the same as summer care around here. 

Lots of places hold “track out camps,” offering anywhere from one to three weeks of activities at a time. 

When the school system created a need for interim care year round, private industry stepped up around here. 

We’ve had friends attend cooking camp, horseback riding camp, farm camp, museum camp, and even computer coding camp at different locations in the area.  If you can imagine it, you can probably find it around here.

Year Round School for Teachers

I also get a lot of questions about what year round school is like for teachers.  For grade level teachers, the teacher stays with their students for the entire school year, following the same year-round school calendar with the same breaks. 

Depending on how many kids are enrolled at each school, teachers sometimes have to pack up their classrooms during their breaks and begin their next nine week session in a different classroom.   

The kids get the same teacher all school year, but may be in a different classroom for each nine week session that they are in school. 

The kids get the consistency of the same teacher in year round school, but they might have to change locations within the school.  This has never really proven to be a problem for the kids at all. 

Packing up and moving classrooms every 9 weeks can be a hassle for teachers, but as usual, our amazing teachers have been adaptable and have figured out how to do it effectively.  

Teachers of special subjects (like art, music, p.e., etc.) and school staff (principals, counselors, office staff, etc.) are usually 12-months employees. 

These positions are usually paid more than the same position in a traditional calendar school, since these teachers work more days that their traditional calendar counterparts. 

Like any other 12-month employee at a non-school related job, they do get time off.  They simply arrange for a substitute to cover their classes while their away. 

Bottom line, we love year round school.  I never imagined anything like it before my kids were born, but it works great for us, and I would enroll my children in year round again in a heartbeat!

Have questions about year round school, or have your own experience?  Share them in the comments!!

Live in the Raleigh/Durham area?  Check out my post on the Top 5 Free or Cheap Family Activities in Raleigh!

Are you a Lonely Mom?  Check out my post with practical advice on how to make (and keep) mom friends!

year round school pin image

Year Round School: How It Works and Why It’s Awesome!

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Ceci

Monday 11th of January 2021

Thanks for this great piece! I’m new to this year-round world. Do you know which track gets the greatest requests? Is the county flexible about accommodating preferred requests? I recognize there has to be some structure or parents would be shifting kids to different tracks endlessly. I’m just hoping that if I say I want track X, then it’s generally guaranteed. Thanks!

admin

Wednesday 20th of January 2021

Track 4 is by far the most popular, as it is closest to a traditional calendar. You do get to ask for what track you'd like, but it isn't always accommodated. They usually allow your to request a track changed sometime in the spring. It just depends on the school and how much room they have available if you'll get your requested track or not.

Aimee

Saturday 28th of November 2020

Do you know if people with a kid in a traditional calendar high school and another in a year round middle have trouble? Any ideas on how they handle the situation?

Thanks for the article!

admin

Saturday 28th of November 2020

That scenario happens frequently around here. We're about to face that challenge in our own family. A lot of people who know this may be an issue request track 4, since the calendar is closest to traditional.

Kelly

Tuesday 26th of May 2020

Do you know details of if you have a middle schooler and an elementary age student? Will they coordinate tracks for the family? Thanks! : )

admin

Thursday 28th of May 2020

They absolutely will. We have had a middle schooler and an elementary schooler for the past 2 years. They automatically kept my daughter on the same track she had been in at her elementary school when she reached middle.

Andrea Bates

Wednesday 11th of July 2018

This is the first year we’re doing YR. My daughter has been in school in Durham County, and on a traditional calendar. I’m looking forward to the experience and think it will be an interesting change. Thanks for breaking it down this way, I am planning on sharing this piece so friends and family up north can understand more about how it works!