Monday, July 23, 2007

This School System May Take "TGIF" a Bit Too Seriously

This story came out last week, when I was too busy with jazz camp to properly address it, so here we go: An area school district wants to eliminate Friday classes by going to a four-day school week with longer hours:
Nearly 1,000 parents and students packed into Lancaster High School's auditorium Thursday night to hear district officials pitch a plan for a four-day school week that drew fiery criticism from the crowd.

Many parents at the emotion-charged meeting said the proposal – which would take effect this fall and is being presented as a one-year pilot program – would allow unsupervised students to get into trouble while home alone Fridays and would force parents to spend hundreds of dollars on child care for young children.

"People will move out of this area if they have more expenses out of pocket," Sheri Brisco, the mother of a second-grader and a pre-kindergartner, said before addressing the crowd.
It sounds on the surface like they're trying to do this to save money, though Superintendent Larry Lewis says otherwise. But there are still some glaring problems here:
  • The superintendent did his research using Google and not much else.

  • The schools that have used this program were almost all in remote, rural locations; one was even on the island of Micronesia. None was in a mid-sized suburban district.

  • The district's only provision thus far for Friday day care would cost $25 a week, or $900 a year. Many families in the area probably can't afford that. (Also, that's only for one kid. The district has pledged to cap the fees at $50 a week for those with multiple enrollees in a family, but that's also likely to be beyond the budgets of many.)

  • Shortening one day makes the others longer; how many kids will be able to concentrate through an entire school day that runs from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.? That's Lancaster's proposed schedule for high schoolers. (And let's not even talk about people who have to practice for band, athletics, etc.)

  • And here's the biggest question: School starts in just over a month. Why are they just discussing this now? People need time to prepare for a major change like this.
I'll once again call on my fellow educators for comments. Good idea? Horrible one? I tend to lean towards the latter, especially when the change is being proposed on such short notice. This kind of schedule can work great for college students, but they're also adults who don't need supervision during their time off. The same can't be said for younger students, especially in a lower-income area where most kids don't have the luxury of having a parent at home. I think this idea needs to go back to the drawing board.

UPDATE: An editorial in the Tuesday Dallas Morning News also comes out against Lancaster's proposal, and has a good quote:
District officials should abandon this plan and find other ways to close the budget gap. And since Lancaster spends more money on administration than state guidelines advise, cutting back at the central office might be a good place to start.
Amen to that last part. I've had that idea myself for a while now...

No comments: