Alternate School Year Organizations
By the Saskatchewan Educational Leadership Unit
SSTA Research Centre Report #99-08: 45 pages, $11
Table of Contents









The processes of educational restructuring and reform have produced a number of proposals for improving education service delivery, including recommendations for changes in governance, program delivery and school organization. One such proposal relates to changing the traditional school day and school year to provide better service to students and the community. The traditional school day/year was based on an agrarian society, which has changed much in the past fifty years; consequently there is a need to examine changes to the school day/year organization. These changes are based on the view that the traditional school year (e.g. 180 to 200 days) and five-hour school day do not provide the flexibility required in a complex modern society. This report describes four examples of alternative school day/year organizations including i) extended school days, ii) year round schooling, iii) the four day week, and iv) the balanced school year. Each of these alternatives has been reported in educational research and policy analysis and each has been implemented in school jurisdictions in Western Canada. 

The report provides a brief overview of some of the principles used to re-organize the school year including a summary of some of the research and opinion used to rationalize the changes. Based on those general principles case studies of five western Canadian schools are presented as examples of alternative school calendars. Each case is presented using a common framework including: i) an overview of the alternative school day/year, ii) a description of the school setting in which the changed year was implemented, iii) a description of the implementation procedures, and iv) an evaluation of the effects of the changed school day/year. 

An analysis of the five alternative school day/year organizations reveals that there are some elements common to each. First, the importance of involvement of the stakeholders (school officials, parents, communities) in planning and implementing the change. Changing a school calendar requires meaningful consultation with both educators and the broader community. Such consultation is important because the benefits of changed school years are, typically, unique within each school and/or community. 
A second issue is the importance for planners and policy to recognize the factors affecting the implementation alternative school day/year calendars, the most importance of which is the social, economic, or community concerns which underlie the need to change the school year. For example, the cost effective use of school facilities or adapting to employment trends in a community were significant factors at Terry Fox School in Calgary and at Glendale school in Williams Lake, B.C. or making better use of instructional time.  

A second factor to be considered in implementing a changed calendar relates to teachers instructional practices, such as scheduling final exams or more effective use of classroom time through longer class periods. The alternative school day/year at Grenfell School and at E. D. Feehan High School in Saskatoon were based on such educational or organizational needs. 

The third factor to be considered is the effect of changed calendars on student learning. There is little research to show whether a changed school year has either a positive or negative effect on achievement, however, there is evidence that changed school years are viewed positively by the parents, students and staff who are directly involved. More research, particularly longitudinal research, is needed to better understand the effects of alternative school day/year organization on student learning. 

In conclusion, students and parents involved with changed school days/years typically felt that the alternative school calendar was preferred over the traditional calendar. Perhaps more importantly the examples described here demonstrated that it is possible to change some aspects of the school organization that have been in effect for over a hundred years. 

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The September-June calendar has outlived its usefulness. Originally, it had a strong purpose: to enhance the prevailing agricultural economy of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was not designed to enhance instruction then, and it does not do so now.

Ballinger, 1987, p.1



Ballinger’s statement underlies the most common arguments employed to justify altering the school calendar: the significant economic and demographic changes to North American society over the past century and the relationship of time to learning. The underlying support for these arguments is that our current school year structure is based on the needs of an agrarian economy and, therefore, inhibits a continuous, more desirable, mode of instruction (Schell & Penner, 1993).

Educational reformists contend that large-scale demographic and economic changes over the past twenty years have rendered the current school calendar obsolete (Anton, 1995; Jones, 1995; Peyton, 1995; Kemp, 1995; Reichert, 1993; Schlechty, 1990; Ballinger, 1987; Mazarella, 1984). Anton (1995) stated:

Since the 1970s, Saskatchewan and the rest of Canada have experienced significant changes that are causing us to consider the development and implementation of alternative educational organizations that better meet the needs of our current society.

One of the most notable changes in Saskatchewan’s economy during this time is the significant reduction in agricultural production in relation to Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 1970, agriculture represented 17.5 per cent of Saskatchewan’s GDP. By 1992, agriculture represented only 6.7 per cent of the GDP, a reduction of 10.8 per cent. In similar fashion, a demographic analysis for the same period revealed a 6 per cent shift in population from rural to urban municipalities.

These economic and demographic changes have had a dramatic effect on Saskatchewan’s education system. For example, in 1996 P. Atkinson, minister of Education reported that rural enrolments had declined by one-third since 1971 and Statistics Canada (1997) reported that urban enrolments are expected to increase an additional 6 per cent through the year 2004.

The primary pedagogical argument to further support the need for educational reform is outlined in Ballinger’s (1987) statement:

The issue of summer vacation and its impact on the continuous learning of students falls within the greater concept of time and learning. Aronson (1985) stated “since the beginning of compulsory education in this country, educators and policy makers have debated how much time students should spend in school and how that time should be structured” (p.14).

The relationship of quality and quantity of time in school to student achievement is complex at best. Several studies have examined this relationship and have concluded there are many in-school and out-of-school factors that affect student achievement (Adelman, 1996; Mazzarella, 1984; Ellis, 1984; Rossmiller, 1983; Karweit, 1982). However, these studies did recognize that engaged time and academic learning time most strongly correlated with achievement. Furthermore, these studies concluded that school administrators must strive to reduce the amount of time within the school year which is either lost or diverted to non-instructional activities (Rossmiller, 1981). In short, there is a strong literature base that suggests school systems can utilize their existing time schedules more effectively and efficiently.


Alternative School Day/Year Organizations

Having outlined some of the economic, demographic and pedagogical arguments surrounding the issue of organizational reforms in education, the following sections of this report will provide a review of the predominant alternatives to our current systems.  Four types of alternative school years are presented including the extended day/year, year round schooling, the four day week, and the balanced school year.

Information on the four alternatives was obtained through interviews with seven principals and other school administrators who were directly involved in the planning, implementation and follow-up stages of schools that have implemented alternative school year/day programs. The interviews were semi-structured in that a general format was followed (see Appendix 1), while allowing for more probing questions to be asked when needed.  There were two general purposes for the interviews. First, to obtain a general understanding of the processes involved in altering the traditional semester system.  Second, to provide a means to generate a list of the most common questions, concerns and unexpected occurrences during the planning, implementation and evaluation stages of implementing alternative school days/years.

There were four general types of information collected at each interview: i) personal/demographic information on the respondent  ii) background information on the project, iii) successes and failures of the project, and iv)  additional comments sections. The interviewees represented five Canadian school jurisdictions that have adopted alternative school year organizations.  In total, seven interviews were conducted each lasting , on average, forty-five minutes.

Following is a summary of the information provided by the seven respondents.  The information will be presented using the following outline. First, a general description of each four alternative day/year is presented, including a brief review of the advantages and disadvantages of each.  Second, a case study of each alternative is described.  The case study includes a description of the rationale and implementation of the changed school day/year and information on any evaluations conducted on the effects of the alternative day/year.



No one would argue with the findings that more study produces more achievement. Yet, the relationship between time spent on instruction in school and achievement may be more complex that it appears.

Mazzarella, 1984, p. 15
Mazzarella’s statement identifies the common perception that by lengthening the school day or year to provide students with more instruction, student achievement will improve. This perception is primarily due to reports such as Gardner’s (1983) - A Nation at Risk and Holsinger’s (1982) - Time, Content and Expectations as Predictors of School Achievement in the USA and Other Developed Countries. Both of these reports were designed to examine the quality of education in America in terms of time spent on instruction. Both reports concluded that American schools provided their students with considerably less academic instruction than England and other industrialized countries. Gardner (1983) stated, “In England and other industrialized countries, it is not unusual for academic high school students to spend 8 hours a day at school 220 days a year. In the United States, by contrast, the typical school day lasts 6 hours and the school year is 180 days” (p.5).

Canadian education systems have also been subjected to comparisons with other countries. The Society for Advancing Educational Research (1983) produced a Video called “Failing Grades” which compared student outcomes among several countries including Canada. As indicated by the title, the video reported that student outcomes in Canada were average or less when compared to other developed countries. In similar fashion to Gardner’s and Holsinger’s reports, one of the main reasons for this finding was thought to be the lack of instructional time given to Canadian students. The findings of these reports prompted educational reformists to recommend more effective use of the existing school day, a longer school day, and/or a lengthened school year. As a result, extended day/year programming became a viable alternative to the traditional school calendar.

Anton (1995) and Richmond (1978) defined extended school calendars as any program that is designed to increase the amount of instruction received by students. These programs may include lengthening the school day or year and in extreme cases take the form of year-round schooling.  Thompson (1985) and Dougherty (1981) suggested that extended school calendars may help alleviate teacher shortages, rapidly increasing enrolments, shortages of school facilities, retention loss due to long summer vacations, and make better use of plant facilities that remain unused for a large portion of the year.

The rationale for extended school calendars stems from research that identified cooperative learning (Slavin, 1990), integrated curriculum (Jacobs, 1989), and attention to different learning styles (Dunn & Dunn, 1979) as the teaching styles that most effectively engage students in the learning process. Sizer (1992) added that the two major features of public schools were a curriculum that is overloaded and students who are unengaged in the learning process. Therefore, the proponents of extended school calendars rationalised that increased class time will increase student performance because it allows teachers more time to use cooperative groups, vary instruction and to accommodate diverse learning styles. In other words, extended time schedules call for longer instructional blocks, fewer classes to prepare, and fewer students to interact with, thereby allowing teachers to spend more time on fewer subjects with fewer students (Salvaterra, 1995).

Examples of Extended Day/Year

There are several types of extended day/year programs. In terms of extending the daily academic calendar, the most common notion is to extend the traditional school day from six to eight hours.  The primary reasons for an eight hour school day are to increase the amount of instructional time students receive and to bring the school day more in-line with parents’ work schedules. Typically, the daily programming of an eight hour extended day would consist of four, two hour instructional blocks.

In terms of extending the yearly academic calendar, year-round schooling options predominate. A detailed breakdown of the year-round schooling literature is provided later.

Advantages of Extended Day/Year Programs

1. They increase the amount of time school buildings are used.

2. They provided students with a safe environment for longer periods of time than the traditional school calendar by extending the operating schedule.

3. They reduce the amount of learning loss due to more instruction with less time between instructional periods.

4. They allow teachers more time to utilise alternative teaching methods and to pay attention to individual learning programs.

5. They increase the mastery level of curriculum and reduce the pressure of an overloaded curriculum associated with the traditional school calendar.

6. Several studies and research reports have reported increases in student achievement.

Disadvantages of Extended Day/Year

1. Several studies have shown that the public doesn’t support extended programs.

2. Extending the school program would significantly increase educational costs. Mazzarella (1984) reported that increasing the school year to 8 hours would cost the U.S. $20 billion per year.

3. Good and Hinkel (1982) reported that time measures do consistently relate to student achievement, but that this relationship is not always substantial.

4. Teachers had several frustrations including:

a) they often ended up filling in time or wasting time because of longer
 b) classes with poor conduct were long and difficult.
 c) staying on task for longer periods of time was difficult.
 d) younger students found longer classes difficult.
 e) ninety minutes for one class is a long time for students.


As mentioned earlier, the notion of extending the school day or year developed in response to studies that compared the quality of education in North America to European and Asian countries. The findings of these studies provoked anxiety by suggesting that students in Europe and Asia outperformed their North American counterparts (The Society for Advancing Educational Research, 1983). The primary reason attributed to the differences in student achievement was that European and Asian students received considerably more academic instruction per day and year (Gardner, 1983; Holsinger, 1982).

Comparisons of North American schooling to other countries generated wide-scale debate, not only on the comparability of education systems that operate in different geographical areas, but to the extent that different cultures effect education. However, the most heated debate focused on the extent to which time and learning were related. For example, Holsinger’s (1982) statement that time given to instruction and the opportunity to learn were key characteristics associated with high achievement scores, was quickly countered by Gardner (1983) who stated that school systems in advanced countries are all more or less equally effective - this in spite of the differences in length of school day.

Karweit (1985) examined the relationship to time and learning and suggested that “time spent is positively and moderately related to achievement...for understanding the potential of school time as an agent for school reform, these global indications of the effect of time tell us very little” (p.9). Karweit goes on to say that to better understand this relationship, time must be dissaggregated into its separable components. In short, Karweit argues that simply spending more time in school will not ensure that student achievement improves, rather that “engaged time” or time-on-task has the greatest potential to effect student outcomes.

The works of Mozzarella (1984), Ellis (1984), Adelman (1996), Aronson (1995), and Peyton (1995) support Karweit by confirming that academic time must be considered separately from time spent in school. Therefore, when considering whether or not to implement an extended day/year school calendar, these authors affirm the importance of examining how academic time can be increased, rather than merely the time students spend in school.

A Case Study of an Extended Day Program

Background Information.  Walnut Grove Secondary School enrolls approximately 1670 students and is part of the Langley School District # 35. In 1996, the school implemented an early morning, extended-day program in an attempt to alleviate overcrowding issues due to a lack of space. The program has been renewed twice and will continue through the 1998/99 school year, at which time, a final decision to continue the program will be made. Coinciding with this decision, the school will have successfully completed an addition and will no longer have an overcrowding issue. Therefore, the decision to continue the extended-day program will likely be determined by its impact on educational issues.

There were several groups involved in the development and implementation process. These groups included a student leadership group, school administrators, the Board of Education, the teacher's union, a teacher's committee, and a parental group. Several mediums were used to coordinate the activities of these groups such as surveys, committee meetings and general open discussion meetings.

Before deciding upon an extended-day calendar, several options were considered including time shifts, transporting students to other schools, and efficiency schedules such as block scheduling. However, in this case, an extended-day program was seen as the best possible way to address the overcrowding issues facing the school. The implementation process was deemed the least disruptive for students and staff, while still allowing for the development of a strong school community. In addition, the extended-day program fell within the contractual agreements of teachers, bus drivers, the Education Act, and other school staff such as janitors.

The extended-day calendar at Walnut Grove consists of two staggered instructional streams, one beginning at 7:15 a.m. and the other at the traditional 9:00 a.m.. Students and teachers were given the option of choosing which stream they wished to participate in, thereby better utilizing school facilities and resources.

Overall, the extended-day program is considered less successful than the traditional semester system, but under the conditions facing Walnut Grove, there seemed few options. The pros and cons of this process will be discussed in detail later.

Implementation Procedures.  Following is the sequence of steps taken to implement the extended day program.

i. The principal of Walnut Grove Secondary School initiated the idea and made a proposal to the teachers. Then, detailed meetings were held among department heads and all staff members of the school. From these meetings a Committee was formed to develop a formal recommendation.

ii. At the same time, meetings with parent groups and the student leadership group were initiated. To involve the greater student body, surveys were distributed to all students. The results were collated and discussed with the staff.

iii. The findings from the parent group meetings and from students were included in the formal recommendation that was proposed to Superintendent of Education and then to the Board of Education. Approval was received to develop an extended-day school calendar.

iv. The extended-day calendar was discussed and prepared, and students and teachers were asked to identify their preferred choice. Then, preparations were made to ensure a smooth transition to the new calendar starting in the fall of 1996.

Perceptions of the Program.  The extended-day program at Walnut Grove Secondary School was perceived to be less successful than the traditional semester system. However, several benefits were realized, particularly in solving the school's overcrowding issue. Other benefits included providing students with a wider range of curriculum and scheduling choices, improvements to student and teacher attendance, improvements to student grades, and strong support from the educational community.

Some difficulties resulted in adopting the extended-day program. Scheduling students on two streams, crowding during times of overlap between the two streams, and the extra workload placed on school administrators were the most common shortcomings. It was also noted that academically stronger students were more likely to participate in the early morning stream. Consequently, there was a perceived difference in the quality of students between the two streams.

Support for the extended-day program was very positive, particularly those students and teachers who participated in the early morning stream. Teachers who remained in the traditional time table were less enthusiastic as were some parents who felt 7:30 a.m. was too early for effective instruction.

Balancing student needs with that of teachers and administrators and the maintenance of a strong school community were deemed the greatest concerns during the planning and implementation processes. It was felt that student and teacher needs were more easily met; however, the increased workloads placed on administrators throughout the process were cumbersome. As a result, it was suggested that if other schools attempt a similar school calendar, special care must be taken to ensure administrators are provided the appropriate attention and relief time.

At Walnut Grove, the extended-day program allowed the school to successfully address an overcrowding issue, while maintaining a strong school community. By creating an overlapping, two-tiered schedule, students and teachers on both streams remained in contact through participating in school events and extra-curricular activities.

Finally, it should be noted that there was no provincial involvement during the entire planning and implementation process. Currently, the Minister of Education is involved on a limited basis and will become more involved if Walnut Grove decides to petition to continue the program permanently.



If year-round education were the traditional school calendar and had been so for a hundred years or more, and if someone came along to suggest a new calendar wherein school students were to be educated for only nine months each year, with another three months free from organized instruction, would the public allow, or even consider, such a calendar?

Ballinger, 1987, p. 61
Ballinger’s statement is designed to challenge the public’s traditional view of how the school calendar ought to be organised. The primary reason advanced for year-round schooling has been that it provides the economical use of resources (Shields & LaRocque, 1997). The logic is that by making better use of existing schools, fewer additional schools need be constructed. The National Public Relations Association (1971) added that, through year-round schooling, a more continuous basis of instruction is provided when compared to the traditional ten-month school year.

Zykowski (1991) traced the inception of year-round schooling in North America back to 1645 in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Herman and Grove (1971) added that year-round schooling became more prevalent in the 1800s due to European immigrants who thought it would help assimilate their children to North American culture. In Canada, however, year-round schooling remains a relatively new concept. Kemp (1995) stated that year-round schooling began in Canada as early as 1971 in Saskatchewan and Alberta, followed by Ontario in 1972 and British Columbia in 1988. By 1995, year-round schooling was reported to provide for an enrolment of approximately 1500 students across Canada.
Shields and LaRocque (1997) state, “In general we find that the literature affirms that the impact of year-round schooling is generally positive rather than neutral or negative (Baker, 1990; Bradford, 1993; Los Angeles Unified School District, 1982-1983; Mutchler, 1993; Peletier, 1991; Shields & Oberg, 1996)” (p.2). They further add that finding no difference with respect to student achievement should be interpreted in a positive light “in that it demonstrates that it is possible for structural change, increased facility use, and cost benefits to occur without negative consequences to important student outcomes” (p.2).

In general terms, year-round schooling represents an alternative means to organizing the school calendar. As indicated by its name, a year-round schedule is designed to engage schools for twelve months with some instructional programs being offered on a continuous basis instead of a traditional ten-month school year. Merino (1983) identified over 20 active models of year-round schooling and an additional 30 more models that have yet to be implemented. Reichert (1993) stated, “regardless of the plan used, they all have the same basic aim: to eliminate the need for constructing new schools, furnishing them and staffing them” (p.14).

Examples of Year-Round Schooling

The following examples represent only the most common year-round schooling models.

1. 48-15 Single-Track and Multi-Track Programs.  The 48-15 year-round schooling program consists of four 48 day terms, interspersed with four 15 day vacation periods. With the single-track model all students are on the same cycle. However, with the multi-track program, there can be as many as four different 48-15 day cycles operating in one school at the same time.

48-15 Single-Track Program
August 1st
            July 30th
48 Days of  
15 Days of  
48 Days of  
15 Days of  
48 Days of  
15 Days of  
48 Days of  
15 Days of  
The primary purpose of the 48-15 single-track model is break-up the traditional two month summer vacation into several smaller units so that more continuous instruction and learning can be provided.
48-15 Multi-Track Program (2 Cycles)
August 1st
            July 30th
48 Days of  
15 Days of Vacation 48 Days of  
15 Days of Vacation 48 Days of  
15 Days of Vacation 48 Days of  
15 Days of Vacation
15 Days of Vacation 48 Days of  
15 Days of Vacation 48 Days of  
15 Days of Vacation 48 Days of  
15 Days of Vacation 48 Days of  
In addition to breaking-up the traditional two-month summer vacation, the 48-15 multi-track model can increase the school’s student capacity by as much as 33 per cent, thereby creating the potential for savings in operational and capital expenditures.

2. 65-20 Single-Track and Multi-Track Programs.  The 65-20 year-round school program divides the school year into three terms, each with 65 days of instruction followed by 20 days of vacation. In similar fashion to the 48-15 model, the 65-20 school year can be organized in either a single-track or multi-track format. Each format is shown in the following figures.

The 65-20 Single-Track Program
August 1st 
              July 30th
Summer Vacation  65 Days of  
Winter Vacation  65 Days of  
Spring Vacation 65 Days of  
The primary purpose of the 65-20 single-track model is to break-up the traditional two-month summer holiday into three smaller vacations. This model provides for longer periods of teaching and learning than the 48-15 model.
The 65-20 Multi-Track Program (2 Cycles)
August 1st (V = Vacation  I = Instruction W = Common Winter Vacation  July 30th 
In addition to breaking-up the traditional two month summer holiday and providing longer periods of teaching and learning than the 48-15 model, the 65-20 multiple-track model can increase school capacity by 33 per cent.

3. The 95-30 Single-Track and Multi-Track Programs.  The 95-30 program offers two 95-day semesters separated by a 30-Day vacation period. As in the 65-20 program, a common vacation period is provided. Both single-track and multi-track schedules can be accommodated based on the needs of the school.

The 95-30 Single-Track Program
August 1st 
              July 30th
Vacation  95 Days of Instruction  Vacation  95 Days of Instruction 
The single-track program offers longer periods of teaching and instruction that the 48-15 and 65-20 models, and closely resembles the traditional calendar.
The 95-30 Multi-Track Program (2 Cycles)
August 1st
          July 30th
Vacation 95 Days of Instruction Vac   Vacation 95 Days of Instruction
95 Days of Instruction Vacation Vac 95 Days of Instruction Vacation
The multi-track model offers the same benefits as the single-track model, while allowing for an increased school capacity of up to 33 per cent with four tracks in operation.

Advantages of Year-Round Schooling

1. Year-round schooling provides more continuous learning by breaking-up the traditional two month summer vacation period into smaller units.

2. Because the vacation periods are shorter, year-round schooling contributes to the reduction of learning loss.

3. There are more frequent vacation periods and, therefore, more opportunities for remedial intervention during those times.

4. There is potential for significant savings in operational and capital expenditures. With multi-track programs school capacity may be increased by as much as 33 per cent, thus reducing the need to build new schools. Savings are also realized in terms of per-pupil-expenditures by better utilizing facilities and staff time.

5. Year-round schooling is more in line with parents’ year-round work schedule.
6. Student and teacher absenteeism is reduced because of more frequent vacation periods.

7. Better pacing of instruction and easier planning are possible. Therefore, it is less stressful to teachers.

Disadvantages of Year-Round Teaching

1. Year-round schooling may place children of the same family in different tracks and, therefore, reduce or eliminate common vacation time.

2. Year-round schooling does not work well in schools of low enrolment. It spreads the school population too thin. Approximately 600+ students are needed.

3. Extended family time and teacher time is eliminated.

4. Many teachers use the longer summer vacation period as a means to further their education and professional development through university courses. Year-round schooling would considerably reduce this option.

5. Schools may need to be up-graded with air conditioning for the summer months.

6. Daycare problems may arise with many shorter vacation periods.

7. Evidence is inconclusive regarding the overall educational value of year-round schooling.

Overview.  There is considerable debate over the advantages and disadvantages of year-round schooling on academic issues. Shields & LaRocque (1997) reported that there has been a general misinterpretation of the literature related to the effects of year-round schooling on student academic outcomes. They stated that in many instances the literature has been interpreted to be inconclusive, when, in fact, the literature affirms that the impact of year-round schooling is more positive than neutral or negative.

Shields (1996) reported that many studies identified year-round schooling to have a positive impact on student grades ( Baker, 1990; Bradford, 1993; Peletier, 1991; Perry, 1991). Other studies have reported that year-round schooling has neither a positive nor negative impact (Goren, 1986; Hazelton, 1992; Zykowski, 1991). Only one study was identified that reported year-round schooling to negatively effect student achievement (Quinlan & George, 1987).

In terms of non-academic issues, the debate over year-round schooling is just as contentious. For example,  Kirman (1992) stated that year-round schooling was developed in response to the overcrowding conditions facing many U.S. city schools. In his analysis, he suggested that much of Canada does not face the same overcrowding issues, rather Canadian cities require new schools for new residential subdivision. Kirman identified the lack of available land in U.S. cities as another reason for considering year-round schooling. However, he points out that much of Canada has not experienced this dilemma either.

In a 1996 article by Kirman, he stated, “year-round schooling threw students into unbearable hot classrooms during the height of summer and created child care problems during the extended winter break” (p.29). He added, “It cost the L.A. Unified School District an additional $4.2 million per year mainly for extra staff costs for break preparations and to keep their sports program going” (p.30).

In terms of non-academic effects, year-round schooling has been associated with positive student attitudes (Alkin, 1983; Baker, 1990; Gandara, 1992), reduced student absenteeism (Bradford, 1993; White, 1987), reduced school vandalism and crime (Brekke, 1983; Merino, 1983), increased workloads for administrators (Alkin, 1983; Shields & Oberg, 1995), and positive and negative effects on teachers (Christie, 1989; Welster & Nyberg, 1992).

Positive teacher attitudes toward year-round schooling are reported to be dependent on the amount of support they receive during the implementation process ( Rice, 1975), increased financial benefits (Webb, 1973), and the degree to which teachers voluntarily participate (Clauson, 1975).

Fiscally, single-track programs are more expensive than the traditional school year calendars due to extra programming, and multi-track programs result in overall cost increases, while savings are made to net per-pupil expenditures. Sincoff and Reid (1975) reported that in Virginia Beach, net savings came to only $8 per student because of higher staff costs. However, it was noted that despite larger teacher incomes, each teacher served a greater number of students each year. Ballinger (1990) added that the Oxnard School District in California saved approximately $1 million annually in operating costs and $5 million in capital outlay costs with their multi-track year-round schooling program.

Bradford (1995) reported that savings to operating and capital expenditures are made when total enrolment exceeds 16 per cent of the school’s capacity. He stated, “year-round education schedules provide a viable option to school construction that accommodates increasing student enrolments in times of limited financial resources; offers opportunities for increased educational programming; in some cases, reduces student repetition of grades, and reduces facility costs” (p. 1).

In summary, there is a considerable literature base on year-round schooling that outlines several academic and non-academic issues and concerns. However, care must be taken when reading the literature. Shields (1996) warns, “ although year-round schooling has been implemented to varying degrees in the U.S. for nearly 25 years, in Canada, the topic has predominantly been researched with very few implemented projects” (p.3).

A Case Study of a Single Track Year Round School

Background Information.  Glendale Elementary School is located in the interior of British Columbia in the community of Williams Lake. As part of the Caribou-Chilcotin School District # 27, it enrolls approximately 165 students from kindergarten to grade 7.

By the late 1980s, Glendale Elementary School was experiencing significant declines in student enrolment. As a result, the Board of Education began considering proposals to revitalize enrolment. Initially, bus routes and boundary changes were considered and rejected. Then, the school's administration asked permission to pursue a year-round school year calendar.

The general purpose of adopting a year-round school calendar is to break-up the traditional two-month summer vacation into several smaller units so that more continuous instruction and learning can be provided. At Glendale, the student enrolment dilemma was directly related to the economic factors of the region. Predominantly, families are employed in the lumber industry, which experiences "break-down" in April of every year. During "break-down" workflow is stopped due to excessive muddy conditions, thereby providing an excellent family vacation period. The school administration felt that by adopting a year-round calendar, they could create a school organisation that was in-line with the spring "Break-down" and attract families and students to their school. In terms of educational purposes, year-round calendars were recognised for decreasing the amount of instructional review due to smaller and more frequent vacation periods, while making better use of facilities.

Since Glendale's conversion to a year-round calendar in 1991, enrolment has increased from 100 to 165 students by adapting the traditional school year to better suit the needs of the community. The changes in the school timetable were beneficial in reducing teacher burn-out and stress, significantly reducing the need for substitute teachers, increasing student attendance and attitude, and making better use of instructional time.
Implementation Procedures.  Following are the steps taken to implement the year round calendar.

i. The Principal of Glendale Elementary School recognised the potential of a year-round calendar to increase student enrolment and therefore put forth a proposal to the Superintendent of the Board. The Principal also completed a detailed review of the literature to identify the pros and cons of year-round schooling.

ii. The proposal for year-round schooling was reviewed and then presented to the Education Committee of the School Board, which consisted of the President, Union President, Administrators, Trustees, the President of the Parent Council, and a Glendale teacher. The Education Committee granted permission to begin the change process.

iii. General information sharing sessions were held with groups within the educational community. Teachers, students, parents and business groups were invited to participate in open discussions about year-round schooling.

iv. Representatives were sent to a conference in the United States specifically on year-round schooling to gain a better understanding of the pros and cons.

v. A parent committee and staff members designed a year-round calendar and proposed the calendar change to the Board of Education.

vi. The proposed calendar changes were then addressed with parents and community representatives in "coffee-house" meetings. Initially, 20 per cent of the group was in favor of the change, 20 per cent were against the change, and 60 per cent were undecided. As a result, parents were given the option of moving their children to another school if they remained against year-round schooling. Several more "coffee-house" meetings were held, where groups like the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary also had input. Through these meetings, overall support to adopt a year-round calendar was developed. Of particular interest is that the Minister of Education's office was not involved in the process because the Education Act gave permission to the Board to make decisions of this nature. Since, however, the Education Act has been amended giving the Minister of Education final approval for calendar changes.

vi. Once the year-round calendar had been implemented, a preliminary review was completed by a district staff member at the end of the first year (1992). In addition, yearly votes were held for the different educational groups including parents, teachers, administrators, Board members and others. After three years (1994), a Superintendent from Victoria, British Columbia performed an outside review. Throughout the review process, support for the year-round calendar remained very positive and therefore the program has been continued.

Perceptions of the Program.  Implementation of a year-round school calendar at Glendale Elementary School was considered very successful. This success was attributed to the many small "coffee-house" meetings with parents who generated considerable support and understanding. Staff and students were also extremely supportive of the change initiative.

Initial problems occurred with the teacher's union as there was a "work-to-rule" effort underway during the initial meetings with the Education Committee. However, these problems dissipated with continued communication and due to overwhelming support from in-school personnel, students and community groups.

The year-round school calendar was perceived to be more successful than the traditional semester system. Specifically, the year-round calendar provided for better use of instructional time, increased enrolment, reduced teacher stress and burnout, a significant reduction in teacher substitutions, and increased student attendance. Many of these benefits were of added value because Glendale's primary reason for implementing a year-round calendar was to increase school enrolment. An area of concern that arose during the implementation process involved transportation. Transportation assistance was provided to parents who live outside the normal bussing routes and extra bussing had to be arranged for year-round class times.

Words of advice for schools who are considering adopting a year-round school calendar include having the parents involved from the outset, asking all influential people to participate on the steering committee from the beginning, and provide plenty of opportunities for interest groups to voice their concerns and ask questions.

A Case Study of a Multi-track Year – Round School Calendar

Background Information.  Terry Fox Junior High School is part of the Calgary Board of Education and enrolls approximately 750 students in grades seven, eight and nine. In December of 1991, the Board gave the school approval to pilot a five-track  (60/15) year-round calendar in response to overcrowding issues.

In 1991, Terry Fox Junior High was operating at 97 per cent of capacity with an expected exponential increase in enrolment through the year 2000. In that year, the School Board had received funding for a new school; however, the funds were insufficient to build a school large enough to meet its demands. As a result, a subcommittee was struck to assess the viability of adopting a multi-track year-round school program.

Since 1995, Terry Fox Junior High School has been operating on a multi-track year-round school program with much success. A significant amount of background research on the educational, economic, and social affects of year-round programs was completed prior to its implementation. In addition, wide-spread involvement from parents, teachers, students, administrators and business groups in the form of presentations, surveys, meetings, committees, and votes grounded the planning process.

The implementation of the year-round calendar successfully addressed the school's overcrowding problem. Other perceived benefits included improved staff and student attendance, decreased stress and fatigue among staff, decreased instructional review, and increased student achievement. Some difficulties were realized in scheduling five different tracks and other administrative duties associated with coordinating such a complex system.

Implementation Procedures. Following is the sequence of steps involved in implementing this type of year round schooling.

i. The Calgary Board of Education initiated the change process by holding fourteen community meetings to present and discuss the implementation of a year-round school calendar. After these meetings a general vote was held within the community which required a 50 percent plus one majority for continuation. Over 70 per cent of the votes were in approval.

ii. A school committee on year-round schooling was established consisting of parents, staff members, community groups, and students. The committee was responsible for determining the planning and implementation process, time lines, school calendar options, and public relation strategies. Sub-committees for research, discussion groups, reports, and promotions were established.

Iii. The school calendar was designed and approved by the Head Office administration and then taken to the community for input and response. Every household received a calendar and questionnaire, and was asked to select their choices of tracks. Parents who wished not to participate in the year-round program were offered transportation to alternative schools. When tracks were oversubscribed, a lottery was employed to determine participation. Furthermore, parents who had two or more children were guaranteed first choice of tracks. Approximately 84 per cent of the students were placed in their first choice of tracks.

iv. Staff and teachers were selected to lead each of the five tracks.

Perceptions of the Program.  The implementation of a multi-track year-round calendar at Terry Fox Junior High School was deemed very successful. Strong support and involvement throughout the educational community was considered essential. The amount of time allocated to planning was also seen as critical, as it allowed for the necessary compilation of research and background information. In return, the time allocated to planning allowed for people to make educated decisions.

The public relations initiatives contributed greatly to the overall success of the process. Press coverage was abundant, communications with community groups were continuous, and meetings were open and promoted discussion. One person was selected to conduct all presentations to the parents, teachers, staff, students and other community groups as a means of promoting the consistent distribution of information.

Head Office support was recognized as another critical aspect of the process. Their hands-on involvement and knowledge of the multi-track year-round programs was instrumental in selecting the appropriate alternative school organization to meet the school's needs.

The implementation of a year-round school program impacted significantly on the educational, social and economic environments of the school. Educationally, student achievement scores improved, student learning is more continuous, and the attendance of teachers and students improved. Socially, adjustments to family life, vacations and daycare had to be made. Economically, the overall cost of operating the school year-round was increased; however, savings were realized on a per-pupil basis.

Several means of evaluation have been utilized during the pilot project. In the fall of 1997, the Calgary Board of Education submitted a detailed report to the school's Education Committee. The report included parent, student and staff questionnaire responses to a variety of inquiries about their perceived pros and cons of the year-round program. Overall, the responses to these surveys was positive. In 1997, Terry Fox Junior High School received approval to continue the multi-track year-round calendar for another three years.

When asked for advice for schools that are considering adopting a multi-track year-round program, the most common message was to allow the appropriate time needed for planning. It was suggested that a year to a year-and-a-half was needed to properly research and prepare for the implementation stage. Furthermore, strong community and head office support was critical during the entire process. Finally, it was suggested that there are many benefits to a year-round program other than solving overcrowding issues.



A community and school should avoid moving into a 4-Day schedule without careful study and planning.

Brubacher and Stiverson, 1982
Brubacher and Stiverson examined the implementation of a 4-Day week in Colorado school districts that represented 5200 children. The rationale for adopting a 4-Day school calendar is primarily economic in nature in that it focuses on reducing transportation and energy costs (Saskatchewan Education, 1985; Thompson, 1985; Bauman, 1983) through closing the school one day a week. To compensate for a reduced school week, either the school day or year is lengthened.

Feldhausen (1981) identified operational savings in the use of: heating oils, natural gas, and electricity; miscellaneous items such as hand soap, paper towels and light bulbs; and the general maintenance of the building. However, there have been several educational benefits attributed to a 4-Day calendar.

Anton (1995), Brubacher and Stiverson (1985), Burgess (1997), Richburg and Sjorgren (1983), Pompeo (1981), Bauman (1983), and Reinke (1987) all agreed that a 4-Day calendar had a positive impact on student achievement, student and teacher absenteeism, student and teacher attitudes, teacher professional development and student remedial intervention (during the closed school day). Furthermore, they identified social benefits regarding the availability of additional family time.

As with any organizational structure, there are weaknesses that accompany strengths. One concern was identified regarding how students utilize their day off, particularly those students in urban centers (Brubacher & Stiverson, 1985). Other studies have suggested that elementary children experience difficulties adapting to the longer school day that is often implemented to compensate for the day off. Furthermore, parents have expressed difficulties finding suitable and affordable daycare arrangements for their children during the day off.

Despite the concerns outlined above, Anton (1995) stated, “the results (of the 4-Day School Literature) are overwhelmingly in favour of the idea with all groups (administration, parents, teachers, students) supporting the concept” (p.30). The key to successfully implementing a 4-Day school calendar lies in careful study and planning.

Advantages of 4-Day Week Calendars

Disadvantages of 4-Day Week Calendars
  Overview.  The literature surrounding the concept of a 4-Day school week is overwhelmingly positive. Most, if not all, studies agreed that a 4-Day calendar had a positive impact on student achievement, reduced costs of operation, and improved student and staff attendance (Anton, 1995). It should be noted, however, that 4-Day schedules have primarily been implemented in the U.S., particularly in California, Colorado, and Washington. As a result, care must be taken to examine the impact of a 4-Day calendar within the Canadian educational context. For a detailed implementation analysis of  a 4-Day school week in Saskatchewan, see Burgess’ (1993) report: Four Days of Classroom Instruction Every Week in Scenic Valley School Division No. 117.

As mentioned earlier, the primary purpose of implementing a 4-Day week is economical in that it focuses on reducing transportation and energy costs. In much of Canada, and especially in Saskatchewan, there is a considerable rural education component. In such a system where transportation costs represent a considerable portion of educational expenditures, a 4-Day school week may be increasingly viable.

A Case Study of a Four Day Week

Background Information.  Grenfell Elementary School is part of the Scenic Valley School Division and enrolls approximately 160 students from Kindergarten to Grade 6. In the 1996/97 school year, Grenfell Elementary School implemented a four day school week in the hopes of making better use of instructional time. Since its implementation, the program has been approved for continuation twice and continues today.

A four day school week represents a significant change from the traditional semester system. However, the Board and Director of the school division became increasingly concerned with the amount of lost instructional time due to sporting events, field trips and other extra-curricular activities that occurred primarily on Fridays. As a result, they began to consider alternative school year organisations that would better utilize and preserve instructional time.

The most common rationale for adopting a four day school week is economic in nature in that it focuses on reducing transportation and operational costs of the school. Grenfell Elementary School has recognised these benefits and others, but is most satisfied with the better utilization of instructional time that the four day calendar provides. In this case, the four day week calendar represented the most viable means to reorganize the school calendar to preserve instructional time.

The four day calendar at Grenfell runs from Monday to Thursday every week except when a mandatory holiday falls on a Monday. During these weeks, classes shift from Tuesday to Friday, thereby making up any lost instructional time due to holidays. Because there are no scheduled classes on Fridays, Monday through Thursdays have been extended by 24 minutes. Friday was chosen as a non-instructional day, where field trips, sporting events and other school activities are scheduled. Monday through Thursday is strictly reserved for instructional time.

Implementation Procedures.  Following are the steps taken to implement the four day week.

i. The Director and Board of Education became concerned with the loss of instructional time, particularly on Fridays where sporting events, field trips and other extra-curricular activities regularly disrupted class. As a result, they made a proposal, in the form of a discussion paper, to pilot the four day week calendar at Grenfell Elementary School in the fall of 1996.

ii. The proposal was then taken to the teachers at Grenfell Elementary School and public meetings were held in every community. At each venue, the proposal received a vote of approval.

iii. Then, educational groups were given the proposal and asked for support. These groups included students, parents, the teacher's union (STF) and community representatives.

iv. The proposal was then passed on to the Minister of Education and negotiations were held over the interpretation of the Education Act regarding roles and responsibilities of all educational groups, the required hours of instruction, and teacher working hours.

v. The schedule was then completed to reflect the necessary changes in the school calendar. In addition to Monday through Thursdays being 24  minutes longer, lunch hours were shortened by 15 minutes. All staff and school administrators were given time to review and comment on the proposed schedule.

vi. The four day school week was implemented in the fall of 1996. Since its implementation, the calendar has been extended twice and remains a pilot project that is subject to yearly review. There has been one external review that consisted of interviews involving members of the entire educational community. The results of this review were very positive.

Perceptions of the Program.  Implementation of the four day week calendar was very successful. The perceptions of students, parents, teachers, administrators and community groups has remained positive over the three year pilot project. Approximately 98 per cent of these groups support the four day school week.

Some of the major issues that were addressed included dealing with the teacher's union, altering the bussing schedule and contract, and family concerns.

Two family concerns developed. Thursday nights became an additional "party" night for senior students and seemed to create an extended weekend, and some families required assistance finding alternative daycare plans for Fridays when there were no classes or school activities.

There were several perceived benefits attributed to the four day week calendar. These benefits included providing better use of instructional time, savings in school maintenance and operational costs, savings in bussing costs, a decreased need for substitute teachers, better use of teacher in-service time and extra-curricular school activities on Fridays, and a reduction in discipline by 50 to 75 per cent.

When asked for words of advice, it was suggested that schools must ensure they are well informed and educated in terms of the alternative school calendar they are considering. In addition, input must be received from all members of the school's internal and external community through plenty of open communication. Organising and planning the implementation process was deemed the most important task. As a result, there were excessive demands placed on Central Office and School administrators to facilitate a successful transition to a four day week school calendar.



It is probably accurate to conclude that most modifications are not implemented to simply ensure improved academic achievement. Rather, they are seen to improve other school-related effects such as improved student attitudes or attendance, more efficient use of school space or resources, in response to family requests or community expectations, or to accommodate alternative forms of organisation.

Noonan & Nieman, 1996, p.2
In September 1994 a modified school year was initiated at E.D. Feehan High School in Saskatchewan. The modified school year was typical of balanced school year organizational reforms that engage two or three equal semesters or trimesters. At E.D. Feehan, the balanced school year reform consisted of rearranging the traditional semester system so that Semester 1 began in August and finished prior to the Christmas break in December, thereby balancing the two semesters of the school year.

The rationale for balancing semesters stems from the traditional school organization where Semester 1 begins in September, carries over an extended Christmas break, and resumes in early January. The proponents of balancing reforms argue that the extended Christmas break adversely affects learning retention and causes teachers to review instruction that was taught prior to Christmas. Therefore, by reorganizing the school year into two equal, continuous semesters, learning is enhanced and instructional time is more efficiently and effectively utilized.

Advantages of Balanced School Year Calendars

Disadvantages of Balanced School Year Calendars

There is a limited literature base  available on Balanced School Year calendars. The most common concern regarding any reform concept is that it modifies the traditional school calendar that people are accustom to and, therefore, requires some adjustment and planning to accommodate the change.

Overview.  Anton (1995) outlines the educational, economical, legislative and societal implications of balanced school year reforms as perceived by the educational stakeholders at E.D. Feehan. Educational implications surround the issue of how organizational reform will impact student achievement and the educational experience. Anton stated that parents, teachers, students and administrators  “indicate[d] very clearly that the changes made to the structure of school year did improve” student achievement (p.86). Economically, the implications of balancing reforms are minimal. Unlike most reform concepts that are designed to reduce educational expenditures, balanced school year calendars represent, for the most part,  minor structural changes having little impact on expenditure. Legislative implications relate primarily to the Provincial Education Act with regards to the number of days of instruction, the number of hours of instruction, and the beginning and end of school. Again, with the E.D. Feehan example, structural changes were minimal and easily accommodated. Finally, societal implications can be far reaching for many structural reforms as strong traditions have been developed surrounding holiday schedules. Family vacations, student summer employment and daycare are sensitive issues to consider when planning any reform movement. However, the balanced school year program at E.D. Feehan was generally well received by the educational stakeholders because of the relative minor structural changes they incurred.

A cautionary note is required as most of the available literature for balanced school year calendars is promotional in nature. Therefore, care must be taken to objectively identify the costs and benefits of structural changes as they specifically apply to each school or district.

A Case Study of a Balanced School Year Calendar

Background Information.  E. D. Feehan High School enrolls approximately 1100 students and is part of the Saskatoon Catholic School system. In the early 1990s, there was a perceived need to modify the traditional school year organization to reflect a balanced school year calendar. As a result, the school's administration began a process, which led to the implementation of a balanced semester system in the 1994/95 school year. E.D. Feehan has continued this program for four years and in 2000 plans on receiving final approval for continuation from the Minister of Education.

Normally, the school year consists of two equal semesters; the first semester beginning in September and ending in January, and the second semester beginning in February and ending in June. A balanced semester system maintains two equal semesters, but alters the start and end dates of school so that semester one begins in August and ends in December and semester two begins in January and ends in May.

The prevailing rationale for adopting a balanced school year calendar is to eliminate the long break in instruction that occurs in semester one of the traditional school year over Christmas. The extended Christmas break is thought to adversely affect student learning and to increase the amount of instructional review upon return to school after Christmas. Therefore, by balancing the semesters, learning is enhanced and instructional time is more effectively and efficiently utilized.

At E.D. Feehan, the balanced school year calendar was implemented primarily for organizational purposes. It was felt that by improving the organizational structure of the school year in terms of scheduling, examinations, funding, and efficient use of instructional time, student learning would be facilitated. It was also suggested that the balanced school year calendar was the least disruptive organizational alternative and therefore was considered the easiest to "sell" and implement.

Implementation Procedures.  The balanced school year was implemented as follows.

i. The principal of E.D. Feehan recognised the need to alter the traditional school year organization to reflect a balanced school year calendar.

ii. Background research was completed to identify the possible alternatives to the traditional school year calendar. The research outlined the pros and cons of each alternative and assessed their organizational and educational impacts.

iii. A formal consultative process was established that centered on three principles. First, the process was to work from the inside out. That is, students, teachers and school staff were consulted first, then members of the greater educational community. Second, the process was to have several dimensions through the utilization of surveys, telephone interviews and general meetings. Third, each educational group had veto power that could stop the process at any time.

iv. Several groups within the educational community were involved in the consultative process. They included students, parents, teachers, school administrators, school board members, head office administrators, the teacher's union (STF) and the Department of Education. Throughout the entire process, support for the balanced school year calendar was 75 to 80 per cent.

v. A two-stage implementation process was adopted. In the first stage, a two-year pilot study took place at E. D. Feehan High School. To begin, groups from the school community were surveyed through the consultative process to gain approval for the two-year pilot project. Mid-way through the first year, an informal evaluation was conducted to identify any concerns. At the end of the first year, a detailed evaluation was completed by a masters of education student at the University of Saskatchewan. Both evaluations were positive and the decision to continue the balanced school year calendar was granted. At this point, the consultative process was expanded to determine whether a balanced school year calendar should be implemented across the school district.

vi. In 1997, the Board of Education and the Minister of Education approved a continuation of the program and ordered a formal evaluation at the Provincial level in the year 2000 for final approval and expansion to the entire school division.

Perceptions of the Program.  Implementation of the balanced school year calendar at E.D. Feehan was deemed very successful primarily due to the consultative process. Specifically, the consultative process was described as providing an excellent means to explain, support and promote the change process. The one area of difficulty identified was the transition to a new timetable; however, it was suggested that without the consultative process in place, the transition would have been much worse.

Overall, the balanced school year calendar was considered as successful as the traditional semester system. The organizational goals concerning examinations, funding, scheduling and instructional time were met, however the impact on student learning has yet to be properly assessed.

One of the unexpected events during the entire process involved details around transition. Difficulties with payroll, unemployment insurance and holidays were most noteworthy. Teacher concerns over a perceived loss of holiday time during the first year of implementation were not addressed satisfactorily before implementation. Another surprise development was the overwhelming support of the tourism community in Saskatoon. They were very positive and supportive of the change initiative.

Words of advice were also given to those who are considering altering their school year organization. First, detailed planning is the key. Without open communication and preparation for the transition and implementation stages, the chances of success are considerably reduced.

Gaining overall support for change is very difficult because the traditional semester system is widely accepted as the best organizational structure for schools. Therefore, people are reluctant to "fix something that isn't broken".

Finally, it was suggested that the general acceptance of the traditional semester system "masks a fundamental need to change the way we deliver high school curriculum". A balanced school year calendar addresses this need on an incremental level only and doesn't represent a significant change in how education is delivered to students at E.D. Feehan High School.




Rationale and Planning for Alternative School Calendars

The information provided in the interviews highlighted several general themes in terms of the planning, implementation and evaluation processes required to successfully implement an alternative school year organization. In all cases, the planning and implementation phases were considered successful. In all but one of the cases, evaluations determined that alternative school organizations were at least as successful as the traditional semester system: the extended-day program at Walnut Grove Secondary School was deemed less successful than the traditional semester system, but was recognized for solving the overcrowding issue the school was facing.

Perhaps the most common theme that emerged among the cases was the degree of involvement and support throughout the educational community during the planning and implementation stages. In every example, a wide array of participation from students, teachers, parents, administrators, head office, unions, contractors, and business groups was seen. As a result, it is important that schools who are considering alternative school year organizations realize the need to participatively involve these groups from the onset.

Also evident was the need for a steering committee to effectively guide the simultaneous contributions and activities of many groups and initiatives. In all cases but one, there was a committee established to coordinate activities. In the exception (Grenfell Elementray School), the Director coordinated the activity and established several sub-committees.


Implementing and Evaluating Alternative School Calendars

The case studies demonstrated similar procedures for the planning, implementation and evaluation of their alternative school year organizations. The following guideline is intended to be generic, while identifying some important criteria for consideration.


The following general principles characterized the planning process for the alternative school calendars.

i. Appropriate time must be allocated to ensure the necessary background information and research is completed thoroughly. This will assist participants to make educated decisions and allow for thorough planning.

ii. Selecting the alternative school organization that best suits the needs of the school was essential to the overall success of the process. In all cases, the calendar selected for implementation was directly related to the specific needs of the school in relation to its community and surrounding environment.

iii. The creation of a steering committee was deemed essential in order to coordinate the activities of many groups of people performing different tasks simultaneously. Special care must be taken to ensure that the steering committee is truly representative of all groups within the educational community.

iv. In all cases, there were two levels of approval required before implementation could begin. Administrative approval was garnered from the Board of Education and in most cases, the provincial Department of Education. School contractors such as bussing and teachers' unions were also involved in this level of the approval process. The Education Act was the primary resource that outlined the responsibilities of these different groups in relation to one another. Approval was also obtained from the educational community. In most cases, parents, students, teachers, school staff, and external groups were solicited for their approval in order to ensure support throughout the process. At both levels, there were several stages of approval.

v. In all cases, the alternative school year program was adopted as a pilot program. Consequently, evaluation and follow-up procedures were well planned prior to implementation.


Communication was deemed the primary concern during the implementation process. The steering committee was seen as the focal point where consistent and accurate information was distributed. The steering committee was also responsible for answering questions or concerns from the educational community and other interested parties. Most schools indicated that any change process can be stressful and that communication must be centralized and consistent from the steering committee in order to keep the implementation process on track.

Evaluation & Follow-up

In all cases there were several methods of evaluation used to gain feedback and to identify areas of success and failure. Questionnaires, telephone surveys, meetings (formal and informal), and votes were identified as the most common forms of evaluation. In most cases, internal evaluations were frequent during the first two years of the pilot project. After year one, external evaluations were completed.  In two cases, educational departments from local universities were used to conduct the research. The feedback from the evaluations and follow-up studies was essential in providing support when seeking approval to continue the pilot program.

For a detailed breakdown of what steps need to be taken in order to successfully alter the traditional school year, The Saskatchewan School Trustees Association Research Centre Report #93-08: Rescheduling the Traditional School Day/School Year (Schell and Penner, 1993) is a valuable resource (see Appendix # 2).

In the report, a four phrase process is outlined. Phase 1 consists of an Evaluation/Needs Assessment, whereby the need for change is identified. During this phase, the process should discover the gap between identified needs and current practice - the difference between what is and what could be.

In Phase 2 - Design/Evaluation - the purpose is to research and conceptualize proposal plans which meet the identified needs. Several key steps include the validation of the proposal plan with the stakeholders in the educational community, a feasibility study identifying the significant implications, collaborative planning, and consultation with external agencies such as the Department of Education.

Phase 3 - Implementation/Verification - focuses on implementing the proposal plan. A one or two year pilot program is recommended as it allows for the evaluation of acceptability and feasibility. Widespread involvement throughout the educational community is considered essential.

In the final phase - Maintenance/Communication - the emphasis is upon supporting and revitalizing change. Continued attention, support and resources must be provided and determined through continued monitoring and evaluation procedures.


Factors Affecting Alternative School Day/Year Calendars

There are clearly a number of considerations for school officials when planning and implementing alternative school calendars. Although there is little empirical research on the topic, particularly with respect to the cases described here, there are a number of factors, which may be considered.  These include i) general social or economic factors, ii) effects on teacher instructional practices, and iii) effects on student learning

Social and Economic Factors

During the interview process, the most difficult obstacle to overcome in implementing alternative calendars was identified as tradition. The North American school year structure was originally designed to meet the agrarian needs of society. The September to June calendar allows for the involvement of students in the tending and harvesting of crops and the traditional family summer holiday (Schell & Penner, 1993). The traditional school calendar has effected and shaped the patterns of life for students, parents, teachers and community members for over a hundred years. Therefore, when a school considers adopting an alternative school organisation, it must also reflect on the far reaching educational, social, and economic implications the change may have on lifestyle of the internal and external educational community.

The major educational concerns centered on student achievement, instructional review, instructional time, student and teacher attendance, and organizational issues such as timetables, and hours of instruction. For example, Grenfell Elementary School implemented a four-day school week calendar in hopes of preserving instructional time. E.D. Feehan in Saskatoon began a balanced school year calendar to reduce the amount of instructional review that was required after the traditional Christmas break. Walnut Grove Secondary School suggested that care must be given to ensure that the needs of all educational groups are considered during the planning stage. It was noted that the implementation of an alternative school year calendar did not have a negative impact of educational issues where assessed.
The interviews identified several social concerns that were addressed including daycare, family life-style, student employment, vandalism, community acceptance and involvement, and public relations. For example, at Grenfell Elementary School over 98 per cent of the broader educational community supported the movement to a four-day school week calendar. Discussions followed by votes were held in every community to ensure concerns were identified and addressed. At Glendale Elementary School in British Columbia, the implementation of a year-round school year alleviated a family life-style conflict between "break-down" in the lumber industry and the traditional semester system. In this case, the school calendar was altered to coordinate the school break with "break-down" during the spring so that families could enjoy a common holiday season. In summary, in every case, social implications guided the planning and development stages of the change process.

Economic implications were primarily focused on the cost-effective use of school buildings and resources. For example, Terry Fox Junior High School in Calgary and Walnut Grove Secondary School in Langley adopted alternative school calendars to alleviate overcrowding issues. The schools' administrations realized the need to make more effective use of the existing available school space.

In addition to the educational, social and economic concerns outlined above, the issue of approval was identified and requires discussion. From the interviews, it became apparent that special care must be taken to ensure the appropriate levels of approval are obtained. Three of the five schools indicated that some difficulties were experienced in this area, particularly in dealing with teacher's unions. The Education Act was seen as a crucial resource that clearly explained the responsibilities of the school board in relation to other groups in the educational community.

Schell and Penner (1993) identified Saskatchewan Education, the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association, the Saskatchewan Teacher's Federation, the League of Educational Administrators, Directors and Superintendents, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Saskatchewan Labour, and legal cousel as parties that should be consulted for input when considering an alternative educational organization in Saskatchewan. These groups highlight the complexity and depth of resources that are required before adjustments to the school calendar can be adopted.

Teacher Instructional Practices

In addition to the general factors related to changes in the school year, it is also important to consider whether school calendar changes have effects on teachers’ instructional practices and on student learning.  However, the evaluations of the five cases reported here did not attempt to measure such effects in any systematic way.  As a result the available information relates only to the perceptions of various groups and individuals.  In three of the five cases teachers reported improved use of instructional time, for example, with the balanced school year, teachers felt there was a more efficient use of classroom learning time prior to final examinations.  In the conventional school year final exams are held two to three weeks after the Christmas (mid-term) break which was seen to be a less productive use of instructional time.  Similarly, the four-day week was perceived to result in less time lost to non-classroom school activities such as extra curricular programs.  Also, two of the cases reported improved teacher attendance (e.g. less absenteeism) as an effect of the changed year.

The effects of organizational and instructional changes on instructional practice, and by extension on academic achievement need to be examined more systematically.  For example, recent research on the concept of opportunity to learn (OTL) has shown that teachers’ instructional practices can have an effect on student learning.  OTL is broadly defined as including three general categories i)specific student factors, such as ability or perseverance, ii) program delivery factors such as funding or facilities and iii) classroom factors.  The third factor includes, but is not limited to, teachers’ instructional practices, exposure to course content, learning time, and types of learning materials available for students.

The concept of OTL is not new to education but it has received renewed interest as a result of research related to differences in student performances on large-scale tests.  Recently, a study by Wang (1998) found that student attendance, content coverage, and quality of instruction predicted student academic achievement.  More such research is needed to better determine the effects of alternate school year organizations on student achievement.  Similarly, it would be interesting to know if the changed school year had an effect on other dimensions of student learning, such as improved attendance or attitudes to school. Interestingly, three of the cases in this study reported improved student attendance and more positive attitudes to school with the changed school year.  This of course assumes that there is a consensus that attendance and attitudes are important educational goals.  If so, there may be support for changing the school year to enhance those aspects of student learning.

Student Learning

Research provides only limited information on the effects of the changed school year on student learning. As was the case for teacher instructional practices, this information typically was based on the perceptions of students, teachers, and parents with respect to three aspects of student learning (e.g. academic achievement, attendance, and attitudes to school).  In three of the five cases i) the balanced year, ii) the extended day, and iii) the multi-track year round school improvements were reported in one or a combination of these three dimensions of student learning.  Because the school year evaluations were conducted with only one or two years of implementation, there was little empirical exploration of the effects on academic achievement.  However, in one case (the balanced year) preliminary examination of student achievement was undertaken.  Radchenko (1995) compared average grades for selected courses for the first semester 1993-94 and 1994-95 with 1994-94 being the first year of implementation of the balanced year.  Average final grades for each of grades 9,10,11, and12 were compared over the two years, the assumption being that any differences may be attributable to the changed year.  It was found that the average final mark for grade 9 students was slightly higher with the balanced year, whereas the averages for grades 10, 11, and 12 were slightly lower with the balanced year.  Given the relatively small differences across all four grades the researcher could neither endorse nor reject these differences as effects of the balanced year (p.65).  This finding is similar to other studies, which typically report no significant differences in student achievement for alternative school years (Carleton Board of Education, 1994).  This ‘no effects’ results for academic achievement may indeed be predictable based on the principles of engaged learning time or academic learning time described earlier.  Presumably there will be no substantive effects on student learning unless there is either a significant difference in the amount of instructional time, or a qualitative difference in the engaged time in the classroom.

In summary, it can be concluded that currently there is little evidence to support a contention that changing the school year in itself has any effects, positive or negative, on teachers’ instructional practices or on student learning.  More research is needed on various dimensions of both of these factors before any claims should be made as to the effects of a changed school year.



This report has outlined the need to alter the traditional educational organization, provided a detailed literature review of the existing models of alternative educational organizations, provided five examples of Canadian schools who have successfully implemented alternate school calendars, and discussed the general criteria and implications of doing so.

A consistent message from the case studies was that it is necessary at times to change the traditional school calendar to meet the needs of the internal and external educational community. Furthermore, that it is possible to successfully implement these changes provided appropriate time and resources are allocated to the planning stage of the process. Critical is the early involvement of key stakeholders and that the school have the necessary time and resources available.

In all but one of the cases, the alternative school calendar was deemed more successful than the traditional system. Finally, the results of this report demonstrate that it is possible to change a school system that has been molded for over one hundred years around the agrarian needs of our society and to make a positive impact on the learning environment of a school.



A. Why Change the School Year?

Adelman, N. E. (1996). The uses of time for teaching and learning [Volume 1: Findings and Conclusions]. (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. 397562).

Anton, P.E. (1995). Initial perceptions of alternate school year pilot at E.D. Feehan High School. Unpublished Master’s Project, Department of Educational Administration, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Aronson, J.Z. (February, 1995). Stop the clock: Ending the tyranny of time in education. (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. 381895).

Atkinson, P. (1996). Structuring public education for the new century: Ensuring quality education for Saskatchewan schools. A Saskatchewan Education Public Discussion Paper.

Ballinger, C. (1987). Rethinking the school calendar. Educational Leadership, 45, 5, 57-61.

Ellis, T.I. (1984). Extending the school year and day. (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. 259450).

Jones, J.H. (November, 1995). Extending School hours: A capital idea. Educational Leadership, 53, 3, 44-46.

Karweit, N. (1982). Time on task: A research review. (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. 228 236).

Mazzarella, J.A. (1984). Longer day longer year: Will they make a difference? Principal, 63, 1, 14-20.

Peyton, D. (1995). Time management and educational reform. (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. 394 303).

Reichert, B. (1993). Year-round education: Is it a viable alternative for the delivery of British Columbia’s Year 2000 curriculum? Unpublished Master’s Project, University of Saskatchewan.

Rossmiller, R.A. (October, 1983). Time on task: A look at what erodes time for instruction. NASSP Bulletin, 67, 465, 45-49.

Rossmiller, R.A. (1981). Does the use of resources influence student achievement? Unpublished paper, Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Schell, A., & Penner, G. (1993). Restructuring the traditional school day/school year. Saskatchewan School Trustees Association, Regina, Saskatchewan: SSTA Research Centre Report # 93-08.

Schlechty, P.C. (1990). Schools for the twenty-first century: Leadership imperatives for educational reform. San Francisco: Joseey-Bass Publications.

Statistics Canada (1997). Educational Quarterly Review. Catalogue No. 81-003-XBP, Volume 4, No. 1.

B. Extended School Day/Year Programs

Adelman, N.E. (1996). The uses of time for teaching and learning [Volume 1: Findings and conclusions]. (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. 397562).

Anton, P.E.. (1995). Initial perceptions of alternative school year pilot of E.D. High School. Unpublished Masters Project, University of Saskatchewan.

Aranson, J.Z. (1995). Stop the clock: Ending the tyranny of time in education. (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. 381895).

Dougherty, J.W. (1981). Summer school: A new look. Fastback #158. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa.

Ellis, T.I. (1984). Extending the school year and day. (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. 259450).

Gardner, D.P. (1983). A nation at risk: The imperative for educational reform. A Report to the Nation and the Secretary of Education. Washington, DC: National Commission of Excellence in Education.

Good, T., & Hinkel, G.M. (1982). Schooling in America: Some descriptive and Explanatory Statements. Washington, DC: National Commission on Excellence in Education. (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. 264938).

Holsinger, D.B. (1982). Time, content, and expectations as predictors of school achievement in the USA and other developed countries: A review of IEA evidence. Washington, DC: National Commission on Excellence in Education. (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. 227077).

Jacobs, H.H (1989). Interdisciplinary curriculum: Design and implementation. Virginia: Edward Brothers Inc.

Karweit, N. (1985). Should we lengthen the school term? Educational Researcher, 14, 6, 9-15, June/July.

Mazzarella, J.A. (1984). Longer day, longer year: Will they make a difference? Principal, 63, 1, 14-20.

Peyton, D. (1995). Time management and educational reform. (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. 394303).

Richmond, M. J. Jr. (1978). Richmond’s response to comment by Keith Baker and others. Education, 99, 2, 60-63.

The Society for Advancing Educational Research. (1983). Failing Grades: Canadian schooling in a Global Economy.

Salvaterra, M., & Adams, D.C. (1995). Teacher perceptions of extended time scheduling in four high schools. (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. 390847).

Sizer, T. (1982). Horace’s school: Redesigning the American high school. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Slavin, R.E. (1990). Cooperative learning: Theory, research and practice. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Thompson, L. (1985). Time and Education: A review of the literature. Regina, Saskatchewan. (Available from the Saskatchewan Interagency School Day/Year Committee).

C. Year Round Schooling

Alkin, M. (1983). Evaluating a year-round program. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. 24891).
Baker, G. (1990). Parent satisfaction with year-round and traditional school calendars in Conroe Independent School District. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. 331137).
Ballinger, C. (1988). Rethinking the school calendar. Educational Leadership, 45, 5, 57-61.

Ballinger, C. (1990). Year-round education: Learning more for less. Updating School Board Policies, 21, 2, 1-5.

Bradford, J.C. Jr. (1995). Year-round education: Impact on support services, transportation, operation, facilities, and maintenance. (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. 381872).
Bradford. J.C. Jr. (1993). Making year-round education work in your district. A Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National School Board Association, California.

Brekke, N. (1983). Cost analysis of year-round education in the Oxnard School District. (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. 227597)

Clauson, J. (1975). Job satisfaction of teachers in selected extended school year programs. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, Arizona State University.

Gandara, P. (1992). Extended year, extended contracts: Increasing teacher salary options. Urban Education, 27, 3, 229-247.

Goren, P.L., & Corriedo, R. (1986). Policy analysis on the implementation of an expanded multi-track year-round school program.(ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. 282328).

Hazelton, J.E. (1992). Cost effectiveness of alternative year schooling, Final Report. Austin, Texas: Texas University Press.

Herman, K.L., & Grove, J.R. (1971). The year-round school: The 45-15 breakthrough. Handen, Conn: Linnet Books.

Kemp, B. (1995). Year-round education: Bringing Canadian schools into the 21st Century. Vancouver: EduServ Inc.

Kirman, J. (1996). Round V: The debate over year-round schooling. What they don’t dare tell you about year-round schools. The ATA Magazine, Spring, 29-30.

Kirman, J. (1993). Year-round schooling - No hard evidence. The ATA Magazine, 74-75, 1, 21-22.

Kirman, J. (1992). Year-round schooling: Caution is needed. The ATA Magazine, 72, 1, 6-8.

Los Angeles Unified School District. (1983). Integration evaluation reports: Executive summaries and evaluative design. (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. 246144).

Merino, B.J. (1983). The impact of year-round schooling: A Review. Urban Education, 18, 3, 298-313.

Mutchler, S.E. (1993). Year-round education. (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. 025451).

National School Public Relations Association. (1971). Year-round schooling districts develop successful program (Stock # 411-12802). Harrisburg, Pa: Author.

Peletier, G.L. (1991). Year-round education: The controversy and research evidence. NASSP Bulletin, 75, 536, 120-129.

Perry, L. (1991). Should we have a new school clock and a new school calendar? Education Canada, 31, 2, 8-15.

Quinlan, C., & George, C.E. (1987). Year-round education: Year-round opportunities. Sacramento: Ca: State Department of Education.

Reichert, B. (1994). Year-round education: Is it a viable alternative for the delivery of British Columbia’s Year 2000 Curriculum? Unpublished Masters Project, University of Saskatchewan.

Rice, P. (1975). An assessment of teacher attitudes toward the 45-15 year-round school concept. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Shields, C. M., & LaRocque, L.J. (1997). Reflections on consultative decision-making: Challenging concepts of best practice in a provincial change initiative. The Canadian Administrator, 36, 7, 1-9.

Shields, C. M., & Oberg, S. L. (1996). What can we learn from the data? Toward a better understanding of year-round schooling. Unpublished paper, The University of British Columbia.

Shields, C.M. (1996). Year-round education: Is it worth the hassle? (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. 392136).

Webb, M. (1973). A comparative analysis of some of the concerns and attitudes of secondary classroom teachers with respect to year-round schooling. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, Ohio University.

White, W.D. (1987). Year-round no more. The American School Board Journal, 17, 7, 27-30.

Zykowski, J. L. (1991). A review of year-round education. (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. 330040).

D. Four Day Week Calendars

Anton, P.E. (1995). Initial perceptions of alternative school year pilot at E.D. Feehan High School. Unpublished Master Project, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Bauman, P. (1983). The four-day school week. Issuegram 14. Denver, Colorado (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No: 234502).

Brubacher, R., & Stiverson, C.L. (1982). Colorado’s alternative school calendar program and the four day week. Colorado State Department of Education. (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No: 214719)

Burgess, J. O. (1997). Four days of classroom Instruction every week in Scenic Valley School Division No. 117. A report submitted to the Scenic Valley School Division # 117 four-day week.
Feldhausen, T. (1981). The four-day school week: A potential solution to today’s energy crisis and declining state funding to education. Spangle, Washington (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No: 202650).

Pompeo, J. (1981). Here’s a four-day week that works. American School Board Journal, 168, 11, 37.

Reinke, J.M. (1987). More with four: A look at the four day week in Oregon’s small schools.

Richburg, R.W. & Sjogren, D.D. (1983). The four-day week: What are the advantages for schools? National Association of Secondary School Principals, 67, 459, 60-63.

Saskatchewan Education. (1985). Report to the Minister’s advisory committee on the school year/school day. Regina, Saskatchewan.

Thompson, L. (1985). Time and education - A review of the literature. Regina, Saskatchewan (Available from the Saskatchewan Interagency School Day/ School Year Committee).

E. Balanced School Year Calendars

Anton, P.E. (1995). Initial perceptions of alternate school year pilot at E.D. Feehan High School. Unpublished Master’s Project, Department of Educational Administration, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Barrett, M.J. (1990, November). The case for more school days. The Atlantic Monthly, 78-106.

Blai, B. Jr. (1986). Educational reform, It’s about time. The Clearing House, 60, 1, 38-40.

Carleton Board of Education. (1994). Alternatives to the traditional school year. Carleton Occasional Papers, Series 1, No. 1. Ottawa, Ont.

National Education Association. (1987). Extending the school day/year: Proposals and results. Data - search No. 9. What research says about series. Washington:DC. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. 321374).

Noonan, B., & Nieman, R. (1996). Modified school year: Final report. A report submitted to the Saskatoon Catholic Board of Education on the E.D. Feehan Modified School Year Project

Radchenko, C (1995), The effects on student performance of the alternate school year pilot at E.D.Feehan High School. Unpublished Master of Arts in Education Thesis. San Diego State University.

Thompson, L. (1985). Time and education - A review of the literature. Regina, Saskatchewan (Available from the Saskatchewan Interagency School Day/ School Year Committee).

Walberg, H.J., & Anderson, L.W. (1993). Timepiece: Extending and enhancing learning time. Virginia: National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Wang, J. (1998).  Opportunity to learn: The impacts and policy implications.  Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.  20(3).  137-156.





A. Personal Information

1. What is the your name and the name of the school involved?
2. What is the school’s enrolment and grades of instruction?
3. What was your employment during the planning and implementation process?

B. Background Information

1. Why did your school division consider altering its organisation?
2. What different alternatives were considered?

3. Why was the alternative school year organisation chosen?
4. What different groups were involved in the decision making process?
5. What was the general procedure that was followed?
6. What mechanisms were used to arrive at your decision?

C. Successes and Failures

1. How did you implement the alternative school year organisation?
2. Was the alternative school year organisation successfully implemented?

3. How was the change to the new organizational structure viewed by students, parents,
 teachers, and administrators?
4. Did the change address the educational, social, and economic concerns outlined above?
5. Overall, do you consider the alternative school year organisation more or less  successful than the traditional model? 6. What evaluation/measurement procedures were employed during the process?
7. Have you modified the original plan that was implemented?
8. Do you plan to continue the reorganization?
9. Were there any surprises or unpredicted events?
10. What words of advice would you give schools who are considering adopting an alternative school organisation?

D. Additional Comments

1. Do you have any further comments?



The following schools, their contact information and the type of alternative school year organizations that were interviewed for this study are listed below:
E. D. Feehan High School 
411 Avenue M. N. 
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan  S7L 2S7 
Balanced School Year Calendar 
Grenfell Elementary School 
Box 1090 
Grenfell, Saskatchewan  S0G 2B0 
Four-Day School Week Calendar 
Terry Fox Junior High School 
139 Falshire Drive N. E. 
Calgary, Alberta  T3J 1P7 
Multi-Track (X5) Year-Round Calendar 
Glendale Elementary School 
4100 Glendale Drive 
Williams Lake, B. C.  V2G 2V5 
Single-Track Year-Round Calendar 
Walnut Grove Secondary School 
 8919 Walnut Grove Drive 
 P.O. Box 32059 
 Langley, B.C.  V1M 2M3 
 Extended-Day (Early Morning) School Calendar


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