|Banks County Opinions...||
JULY 9, 2003
By: Jana Adams Mitcham
Ah, summer. Those long days, those long weeks upon weeks of freedom freedom from the early morning commute to school, from classes, from homework. Months and months that flew by quickly, of course, but at the onset seemed like they must be endless.
I remember way back when being upset at the thought of having to go back to school on August 27 instead of our usual post-Labor Day start. What a travesty! What was the world coming to? And after wed had to stay in school into the early days of June, at that.
Now, in looking back, I wonder if I idealize those summers. Was I bored? Was I restless? Was a long summer with days at the city pool as nice as I remember? And would such a summer even be feasible now that most households have both parents working?
Now I look forward to summer because there is a lull in the rush of newspaper work we are still working, but the intensity level of school and sporting events drops off for a brief respite. Leaving work at 5 oclock most days....Ah, summer.
I was startled last week to realize that school would be starting up again in a month. It seems like we just finished graduation coverage and typing end-of-the-year honor rolls and already we are talking about the back-to-school guide and the pigskin preview. If I feel like that, how do students, parents and educators feel?
I should stop right here and say up front that I am not writing these thoughts down because of any changes in the current local school schedules they have changed gradually over the past few years, but are not making any drastic changes for the coming year. Im just looking around here and there and all over the country, and its true that summer isnt what it used to be; some say it shouldnt be and some say it should.
Summer is gradually being whittled away across the country, theres no doubt about it. What used to be a three-month break is now down to a two-month stint or less and will most likely be cut down over the coming years into a scattering of weeks here and there across the full spectrum of the year.
The trend is a growing one nationwide; there are year-round or extended-year schools in 44 states now. While most still stick to the 180 days of school, with off days interspersed throughout rather than en masse in the summer, there are some systems that are adding days on to the school calendar.
A couple of schools in Cinncinati, for example, have added on for 194 days or even 230 days of school. One such extended-year plan follows a schedule of school starting August 5, 11 days off in October, 10 days off in December, 11 days off in April and school ending on June 26, with a couple of additional holidays.
There are valid arguments on either side of the equation long vs. short summers.
Those who support an extended year, alternative calendar, diminished summer, year-round education, or whatever you care to call it, say that a shorter summer leads to less regression and need for re-learning when school starts back in the fall. They point out that there (typically) are no more school days, just a restructured calendar, a distinct plus for students who are at risk and potentially a test score and learning retention booster for others.
They argue that the agrarian society is no longer the norm and that the initial need for summers off from school and on for farm work is a thing of the past. In short, that a long summer is an outdated idea that results in bored and restless kids who have to be re-taught the basics in the fall and whose learning curve is interrupted by the months away from school. The shorter breaks interspersed throughout the school year give students and staff needed rejuvenation and prepares them to continue onward with learning, they say.
There is another issue at work for year-round schools not here, not yet, but elsewhere and that is overcrowding. Some school systems are trying out year-round schooling, with multi-tracks of on and off sessions for different batches of students, as a way of avoiding building additional schools.
A different life in a different time.
But some things just shouldnt be different, those who are opposed to diminshed summers say.
For those, the arguments include that summer offers a different kind of learning, one that doesnt require testing, but may include enrichment camps and outdoor activities. Plus, they say, summer gives families a chance to spend more time together (not to mention the issue for working parents to find child care for breaks of two or three weeks), offers teachers a time to go to school themselves, and gives teens summer job time to earn money for the school year. What about seasonal communities and the economy surrounding that? they wonder.
Students who participate in athletics may be involved in pre-season training camps, as well, they say. And rather than bored and restless kids, the proponents of longer summers see refreshed students and staff ready to face the classroom again. Students reach a saturation point, they say, when learning just wont be optimal. Some who oppose diminished summers say they havent seen proof of educational improvements of a more continuous school year.
Having said all of that, Ill say this I dont have children and my own experiences as a student date back years, and were, of course, from a young students point of view, rather than an academic one. In other words....free time? Yes!
Now I look at my niece and nephew and wonder what it is like to have a more ongoing stream of school, or how I might feel about that if I had a child myself.
So I am curious about how local parents, students and educators feel. Year-round or not? Long summers or diminished summers? Is the current local balance of a shorter summer, but more days of break throughout the year a good one? How would you feel if a more true-to-definition year-round school ever came to Georgia schools, as it is elsewhere in the country? elsewhere in the country?
Jana Adams Mitcham is features editor of The Jackson Herald and a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Adam Fouche
Battle between man and
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