Speaking Point: There is a big debate going on at the Pennsylvania Board of Education right now about the Coatesville School District in Chester County. The Coatesville School District, like many, if not most school districts around the country, is in a financial crisis. They have a 12 million dollar gap in their budget and must do something. It has come down to this, either eliminate 53 more jobs, primarily educators, or move to a 4 day school week. The community is up in arms in fear of this idea.
Speaking Point: At first glance, change of this nature is frightening. Parents are worried about childcare for the extra day off, and the amount of free time their child will have. Others are worried about the longer days at school and how that will extend the days with sports and other extra curricular activities going immediately following the school day. (The school day would be extended 45 minutes longer for high school and 80 minutes for elementary school.)
Speaking Point: Nationally, only 125 out of the nearly 14,000 school districts have 4 day school weeks. By the way, there are approximately 3,000 districts in the U.S. that have year round school and that number continues to decrease because of all the inefficiencies in the year round calendar. Why is that significant because... "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!”
Speaking Point: All the reasons for the financial crisis in the school districts in this country have nothing to do with the week being too long or the school year being too short. We have to stop looking for short term, "knee jerk" solutions to problems that originate elsewhere.
Speaking Point: Yes, it sounds good to fix the 12 million dollar gap in the budget in Chester County, PA by shrinking the school week and not eliminating jobs or promising to keep the quality of instruction where it is. But what happens, next year or the year after, when the budget is once again in a deficit and the community is being threatened with more lay offs and budget cuts? Do we move to a 3 day school week and promise that the 12 hour days won’t hurt our children? Or that 9 out of 10 Child Psychologists say its ok to finish soccer practice at midnight?
Speaking Point: The priorities are upside down. It’s time to stop looking for solutions in the structure and process of our school week to fix the issues of our budget. Our children need a quality school day regardless of their calendar. If you look closely at the current quality of the school day, and the true experience of learning that goes on in our schools, the discussion would be completely different. Yes, we have to fix the budget issues, but maybe we should look at the quality of our children's day before we look at the quantity of time they spend at their school.
Speaking Point: In the big picture, our goal must be to stop being so reactive to the budget each year, and come up with a quality day that actually is achieved in the four walls of the school building. Then we can decide how many of those we can provide.
Speaking Point: Until then, we will increase or decrease the calendar of our children and their families as an obvious solution to the budget deficit. But, I still worry about what is actually happening in those 4 days, five days or year round school days. Maybe we should look at that first!