Year-round school may be just what Pasco needs

The kids are back in school and every district in the Tri-Cities is reporting increased enrollment. All the numbers are up, but Pasco is up the most.

After voters solidly defeated a bond measure earlier this year, the Pasco School District is making serious overtures toward year-round school.

It's one way to house the ever increasing number of students in the same number of buildings.

Some may see it as a punishment to the voters or as a drastic measure only to be used as a last resort.

We see it as a resourceful, innovative and, according to several studies, effective approach to education.

One researcher, Karl Alexander at Johns Hopkins University, studied student growth (or lack thereof) over the summer months and noted that kids from affluent families continued to improve their learning even when they're not at school.

However, kids from lower income families stagnated or even fell behind during their time away from the classroom.

It's the educational equivalent of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.

Author Malcolm Gladwell describes it in these terms, "For the poorest students, America doesn't have a school problem. It has a summer vacation problem."

With 72 percent of its students on free and reduced lunches, Pasco leads the Tri-Cities in this measure of poverty.

That number compares with 48 percent in the Kennewick School District and 28 percent in the Richland School District.

That discrepancy in relative affluence is a good reason to give year-round (or "multi-track" as they are calling it here) school a try.

If the research is accurate, improving the quality of education (especially for those with lower incomes) is a very good argument for adopting the year-round school model, even if Pasco didn't have an overcrowding problem.

Yes, families will have to plan for day care and vacations. But they have to do that now. It just means adjusting the steps they're already taking.

And really, most of us don't spend two straight months on vacation anyway. Even if that weren't true, vacations shouldn't take precedence over education.

Yes, some parents might hate the idea enough to leave the district. But it's just as likely to work in the opposite direction and attract more families, especially when the test scores start inching, or leaping, upward.

Overall we suspect it's nothing more than a matter of getting used to something new.

For anyone who just spent June, July and August trying to entertain bored kids, it might not be such a hard sell. More than one sigh of relief was uttered by parents as the first school bus of the year showed up.

Yes, it's a wonderful time of year when kids are back in school. It's a wonderful opportunity for them to learn. And we're eager to see that "wonderful time" come around a lot more frequently in Pasco, with smaller gaps in between.

We're hoping for great things from this idea.