School has started back and millions of parents have given a secret sigh of relief. When I was in high school, classes started the day after Labor Day. Now, some of my grandchildren begin classes the first week in August. When the school systems first started adjusting the schedule, they claimed to be working toward a year-round format. One plan was to allow for a Fall break in October, and a longer Christmas holiday, the traditional week in the spring, and a couple of weeks in the summer. An alternative suggestion was to split the kids into sections with a rolling schedule that would start and end the traditional length summer break at different times for each section, but still keep the schools open all year. There were many proposed plans, but none of them suited everyone. In areas where year round school experiments are in progress, chaos frequently reigns as families with children in several schools try to adjust their lives to fit various versions within the same school system.
I suppose it should come as no surprise that no one seems to be talking about year-round school in Kentucky at all anymore. The tighter budgets that have forced our local school system to cut staff positions this year seems to have killed off more than career plans. Year round school is something we need to keep working toward. It may be more expensive for the school systems to be fully operational in summer, but it is worth the expense. Research has shown that kids retain more information when they don’t have that long summer hiatus. Keeping the schools open so that our teachers don’t have to take summer jobs to survive, might encourage those of better quality to stick with it instead of seeking positions that provide year round employment. The year round concept would also help ease the childcare expenses of single parents and reduce the number of latch-key kids wandering the street without adequate supervision.
I sympathize with parents who must figure out how to handle full time employment and still provide proper supervision for teenage kids who are out of school for two long months. Babysitters or summer day camps are available for younger children, but middle and high schoolers don’t favor nannies.
I’ve been there, so I know how stressful it is to leave a 12 or 13 year old home alone all day for days on end. Not that I didn’t trust my daughters, but kids that age simply aren’t ready to handle the emergencies that can come up. I was fortunate enough to live in a fairly safe neighborhood, but that is a dying occurrence in today’s culture. With the mobility of our current world, there is no place on earth that is out of reach of violence and drugs.
With single parent homes becoming the norm, full time employment is a prerequisite for survival. In fact, many single moms are forced to work two jobs just to make ends meet and, even in two parent homes, both father and mother usually work. The children of these parents are left to fend for themselves far to often.
I hear the roar of disapproval. “Schools aren’t supposed to be babysitters.” “The government isn’t in the business of providing childcare.” “Parents need to take responsibility for their children.”
All of that is well and good, but many parents are trapped between the need to supply their children with basic food and shelter and being available to supervise them. If our society requires parents to provide proper care of their children, it needs to accept the reality of today’s world. The best parents in the world cannot be in two places at once. I’d much rather see our teenagers in school year round than bored out of their minds and roaming the streets.
Our school schedule was designed to leave kids at home during the summer when they were needed to help with tending the farm and both parents were there to keep them busy 24-7. That circumstance has almost ceased to exist. It is time to revamp the school system to better supply the needs of today’s families.
As more and more education is required to succeed in a technical society, it is pushing the age of independence higher and higher. Colleges are now year round. The summer schedule runs differently than regular semesters, but that would actually make implementing such a feature in middle and high school easier.
Whereas most colleges run two short summer schedules, county school systems could have a two week break at the end of regular classes, resume until two weeks before the fall semester and take another two week break allowing families two opportunities to schedule summer vacations.
Running classes year round would allow successful students to finish their required credits for graduation much sooner and move on to college courses. If their parents didn’t feel they were mature enough to live on campus, they could stay at home for the first year or so while attending Community College.
Our society has changed and is not likely to ever return to the “good ol’ days.” It is time to re-design our school systems to match the reality of our daily lives.