Philly’s pilot program for year-round school is starting to take shape

The goal is to reduce the “summer slide” where students' minds aren’t stimulated and subject matter needs to be re-taught after vacation.

Listen 0:54
School District of Philadelphia headquarters at 440 N. Broad St

School District of Philadelphia headquarters at 440 N. Broad St. (Danya Henninger/Billy Penn)

From Philly and the Pa. suburbs to South Jersey and Delaware, what would you like WHYY News to cover? Let us know!

Year-round school for Philadelphia students will soon have a trial run.

Speaking at a City Council budget hearing this week, Superintendent Tony Watlington said the district is working on a model to fulfill Mayor Cherelle Parker‘s goal to stop the “summer slide,” where students disengage from learning between academics years and material has to be retaught.

“We are meeting regularly with the mayor’s team to stand up 20 school pilots for the 2024-2025 school year,” Watlington said.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

The 20 test schools will not be completely year-round in the pilot’s first year, but will have extended day classes.

“For year one, we are looking to expand before and after school and to layer on some enriching activities,” he said. Enriched reading, as well as math and science classes featuring robotics, will be included.

For the school year starting in the fall of 2025, the calendar will be extended beyond the traditional dates for the 20 pilot schools.

“Where they actually start school before the other schools in the district, and we eliminate the long break in the summer, but they’ll get breaks during the year,” he said. “So they won’t go to school 365 days or 300 days a year. They’ll have holidays and they’ll have small breaks built in.”

Parker, who was formerly a teacher, campaigned on establishing the full-time school pilot. The hope is that without an extended break, students won’t have any regression in their learning.

Many details have yet to be worked out before the pilot can move forward. Keeping schools open all year will cost more money and will require air conditioning in a district where many schools do not have it. District leaders are currently working on a facilities plan to make those upgrades so that schools are more education-friendly throughout the year.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Any upgrades are expected to cost billions of dollars to complete.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal