More Chicago schools to go year-round

Lack of air conditioning a possible concern at some schools
April 22, 2009 (CHICAGO) These schools substitute the traditional 10-week summer vacation with shorter breaks spread throughout the year. Some believe year-round schooling will improve grades and test scores and help keep students out of trouble. But not everyone agrees.

They are called Track E schools, and Wednesday, officials announced 67 new schools will have classes year-round beginning in August. That brings the total of Track E schools to 132.

The traditional school calendar has a 10-week summer break. Students enrolled in the year-round program have the same number of school instructional days but vacations are shorter and breaks are more frequent.

"Here's how it works: students are dismissed in the summer in June and return to school in early August instead of September. These students then go to school for six to eight weeks, get a two-week break, and come back to their classes for another six to eight weeks. In other words, our students are on a continuous learning cycle," said Ron Huberman, Chicago Public Schools CEO.

For the past two years Westcott Elementary School, 409 W. 80th St., has been on a year-round program. Principal Monique Dockery says it benefits teachers and students, and she says, the school has seen an improvement in academic performance.

"We love it," Dockery said. "I think if I told my teachers they will not have it again they would not want to come back."

Parents and teachers say they embrace the year-round school concept.

"I really enjoy being at year-round school. The students are able to stay on focus much more. It's easier to regroup and continue with the teaching," said Debra Pearson, Westcott teacher.

"To me they have more time in school than they do out, so I like it," said Felicia Sylvertooth, Westcott grandparent.

Julie Woestehoff, of the watchdog group Parents United for Responsible Education, said "Parents of students with different schedules are forced to juggle child care, job and vacation schedule. It's very hard on families."

"People have to realize the students are going to be in school the same number of days as they were before. And my only concern is that a lot of the schools that are going to be year-round are not air conditioned," said Marilyn Stewart, Chicago Teachers Union.

Some of those ABC7 spoke with said they support the year-round school year because it minimizes the amount of learning students forget over the long summer break and it gives children a safe environment for most of the summer.

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