Thousands of students are waking up a little earlier this week as classes resume across the Magic Valley and families return to the familiar school-time routines. Comb your hair. Find your shoes. Where’s my backpack?
Wait a minute. Whatever happened to summer?
You remember summer, right? Old-school summer, when school started after the NFL season’s first kick-off. When kids helped dad in the beet field. When youngsters didn’t start thinking about homework until after Labor Day. When families could still take vacations in August. When finally the first day of school came, the weather wasn’t hot enough to wilt a No. 2 pencil.
Forgive our nostalgia, but we have real concerns about a season that gets a little bit shorter every year. Especially when students have so many days off right after school starts.
In Twin Falls — hardly an outlier in the way it schedules its school year — students start Thursday, two days earlier than last year. Then they have a half a day off the Friday before Labor Day. They’re off again the Tuesday after Labor Day, too. A four-day weekend comes just a few weeks later, with students off Oct. 5-6, a Thursday and Friday. There’s also no school on Oct. 13, Oct. 19 and Oct. 20. In November, students get the whole week off for Thanksgiving.
Yes, we’re familiar with arguments about summer brain-drain, when kids forget what they’ve learned the previous year. Starting earlier may help students forget fewer lessons. But if that’s the argument, why not get on with it and adopt a year-round schoolyear, like other districts have done, especially in other states?
And yes, we’ve heard the rationale that teachers need training days throughout the year to meet government mandates. We’ve talked to plenty of teachers who hate in-service days just as much as parents, who have to juggle babysitters or simply stay home from work, reducing economic productivity. How many of us working folk get to take the whole week of Thanksgiving off like our students do?
Still, we can hardly blame the school district for the calendar we have in place. Every year, the district welcomes input from parents as it starts work on building next year’s calendar. Guess what? Not many parents chime in. But we can hardly blame them, either; work on the calendar usually begins in the middle of the school year, when parents are mostly worried about whether the homework got done or teeth got brushed. It’s often not finalized until April, when the schoolyear is winding down and thoughts have already turned to summer, however little of it there will be.
Perhaps now is the best time for that discussion. The district welcomes feedback any time – you don’t have to wait months from now to weigh in. Call your district. Shoot the superintendent a note. Reach out to a school board member.
Maybe this really is the best calendar for students, teachers and parents. But if it’s not working for you, speak up. Remember, the school is there to serve your family.
And now, if you’ll excuse us, we’ve got some final summery fun to cram in over the next few hours. After all, it’s the middle of August, and today is the last day of summer.