Expanding The Academic Season; Would It Work?

DSC_5399 WEBHow I spent my Summer Vacation.

The perfect essay question. Virtually everyone has had to fill a blank sheet of paper with the intimate details of their time away from school at one time or another. And many a teacher have filled their first day back with students discussing the various activities or trips the latter took on over the Summer.

This might not always be the case, though, if State Senator Eric Kearney has anything to say about it

Kearney, a Democrat from Cincinnati, has proposed legislation that would tack on an additional forty days to both public and charter schools throughout the state of Ohio. Why would he do this?

“My goal is to make Ohio students competitive in the global market place.” Kearney said in a public statement. “In the world’s leading economies, students go to school substantially longer than students in Ohio.”

Kearney goes on to site students from poorer families, and the disadvantages they face in terms of academic activities outside of school, as further reason this change is necessary.

Is it practical, though?

“It’s very easy to say you want things a certain way,” said Larry Long, Superintendent of the Millcreek-West Unity School District, “but I don’t think they’ve looked at everything.”

In particular, Long emphasized the family activities all too commonly associated with Summer, such as vacations or farming. Cramming vacations into a single month may not be possible for many, as those parents who work throughout the Summer would all be requesting the same period of time off from their jobs. Entire industries would simply have to cease functioning for a month, and many of them aren’t going to do that.

In rural communities like those in Williams and Fulton Counties, the Summer Season is a crucial time of year. Fathers and mothers rely on their children to carry some of the workload, preparing the younger generations to take over the farm one day. That tradition, as well as the money earned during this time, would be greatly diminished under this proposal.

“I think it’s a bigger factor than the school district.” Long claimed of the family issues.

There would be some issues with the districts, however.

“I can’t imagine any of our employees would be willing to work those amount of days for the same pay.” Long pointed out.

And with the state of Ohio funding public schools, especially those in rural areas, less and less, it doesn’t seem like a massive stretch that the burden of paying increased wages for school employees would be put back onto local taxpayers.

Then there are other issues such as when building maintenance and cleaning would take place. Custodial staff typically take the whole Summer to give their schools and buses a good once over. When would they be able to do that if students occupied the building almost year round? And what about those buildings that don’t have air conditioning installed?

Not to mention that, with all the state requires of teachers, many of them need to complete further coursework at universities during the Summer. There would also be the question of when they would be able to do that under the proposed plan.

Tourism would also be a consideration. Summer hotspots such as Cedar Point and King’s Island higher a decent amount of high school kids during their busy season.

“I would think they would be against this.” Proclaimed Stryker Local Schools Superintendent Nate Johnson.

Actually, Johnson has a few concerns of his own regarding the extra days legislation.

Perhaps the most prominent of these would be in regard to state testing. With the current system, students end their testing with around a week to go before Summer Vacation begins. This gives the students a well deserved break for their hard work prepping for and taking the standardized tests. Adding days to the school year could take that break away, if testing dates aren’t moved.

“Extending after that date would be a disservice to the students.” Johnson stated.

Johnson also expressed his frustration that legislators are the ones pushing these kinds of decisions. The Ohio Department of Education was to orchestrate policies in this realm, but are currently being dictated to by said legislators. The biggest issue with this model is that it is difficult to believe a congressman can encourage these choices without having an intimate knowledge of what goes on in the classroom.

“It would be nice if the legislators actually talked to us,” Johnson offered. “(If they’d) work with us instead of directing us.”

Overall, there seem to be a plethora of variables at play with this new proposal, with many of them not even fully understood as of yet. As this bill is still in the early stages of the process, legislators may want to iron out the plan before passing it.

“In theory, I think it may have some benefits,” stated Long, “but, in practicality, there are some issues and concerns that need to be addressed.”

As for what the future holds for area schools, Johnson isn’t incredibly worried.

“No matter what has been thrown at us, schools have always evolved.”

How that evolution would look is anybody’s guess. In fact, that would make for a great essay question.

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