Josephine von Dohlen / Col­legian

Stu­dents returning from fall break don’t feel rested. Most are already asking how many weeks they have until Thanks­giving Break.

A four-day weekend isn’t enough time to decom­press — and forget about enjoying quality time with family or catching up with school work. Rushed breaks are a stress in them­selves.

Schools need to break from the cal­endar with long summer vaca­tions, so that stu­dents have more fre­quent, shorter breaks that will provide stress-free rest and improve edu­cation.

An urban legend says summer vacation comes from the agrarian cal­endar, so that stu­dents could help on the family farm. But the majority of farm work occurs during planting and har­vesting, which happen when school is in session. Farmers didn’t take the summer off, but their workload was slightly reduced. Schools in farming com­mu­nities often have their longest breaks during the spring and fall, but they con­tinue during the summer.

Summer vacation truly began in the city in the late 1800s. It started because upper-middle-class fam­ilies went on vaca­tions, unlike the vaca­tions we take today, to escape the blis­tering heat of summer and the air-con­di­tioner-free class­rooms that made the weather even less bearable. For many in the 19th and 20th century, vaca­tions meant moving to a cooler climate for the entire summer.

In the United States this led to the 10-week, or longer, summer vacation. American stu­dents have the longest summer breaks in the developed world. European coun­tries take about six to eight weeks for summer vacation.

Some say stu­dents need summer break so they can vacation with their fam­ilies, as fam­ilies did 100 years ago. But very few fam­ilies need, or want, 10 weeks together.

A six-week summer break would allow fam­ilies to go on vacation (although I’ve never met a family that spends more than two weeks away from home). It would also prevent the wasteful side-effects of summer break.

Low-income stu­dents lose, on average, two months of reading com­pre­hension skills and one month of math skills over the tra­di­tional summer vacation, according to a Johns Hopkins study. Their middle-class coun­ter­parts, by com­parison, make small gains. By the time low-income children graduate ele­mentary school, they have lost up to two years of edu­cation.

Teachers have to devote their pre­cious time to reteaching because of summer learning loss, too. According to the National Summer Learning Asso­ci­ation, 90 percent of teachers spend between three and six weeks reteaching material for­gotten over summer break.

A year-round school cal­endar, in which schools run for four weeks, then take a week or two off, would have stu­dents con­stantly working toward a mean­ingful, relaxing break. It would also mit­igate the nasty side-effects of summer vacation: knowledge loss, couchlock, and worst of all — boredom.

Parents would get some relief, as well. For house­holds with only one parent or two working parents, finding someone to watch children for 10 weeks straight is stressful and expensive. But getting a nanny for a week or two, or simply taking time off work, may be more man­ageable.

Within this framework, schools could still afford longer breaks for summer, Christmas, and Easter. Most states require stu­dents to attend class for 36 weeks in a year. With a six-week summer break, schools would have 10 weeks of vacation to spread throughout the year.

Summer vacation is useful for high-school and college stu­dents who want to take full-time jobs and intern­ships. But changing the school cal­endar wouldn’t take away those oppor­tu­nities. With a year-round school year, busi­nesses could still hire during the shorter summer break. Alter­na­tively, stu­dents could stay with com­panies all year but work only during their monthly breaks.

Parents, stu­dents, and teachers could benefit from a year-round school cal­endar.

Edu­cators could save pre­cious times in the classroom and with that time explore more in-depth material.

Stu­dents could escape the boredom of long summers, while having more oppor­tu­nities to rest throughout the year.

Parents could more easily prepare for a year-round school schedule, as summer would no longer be a life-altering event.

It’s time to leave behind tra­dition and follow the science.