Thursday, May 03, 2007

Year-Round Upheaval

For those of you not from my immediate area, we are experiencing phenomenal growth. The Triangle area of North Carolina continues to be named best place to live in the country by various magazines for various reasons. Best Place for Singles. Best Place for Families. Best Place for Business. Best Place for Yahtzee Players. You name it…we’ve been named the best. So what’s been happening? Everyone is moving here at an astonishing rate! In 1990, the town of Apex had a population of about 6,500. In 2000, that number jumped to over 20,000. Today, the number of resident is estimated at over 31,000. The once peaceful 2-lane roads have either been gridlocked with traffic, or expanded to 4 and 5 lane highways. The small town businesses have been over-shadowed by the big box retailers. And the schools are overflowing with children.

Drive by any public school in this area and you’ll see an array of “portable” units - outdoor classrooms with underpinning. It seemed this was enough to hold the kids until new schools were built. But the families kept arriving much faster than the schools could be built, and now the schools are literally busting at the seams. The local school board thought long and hard about how to handle this issue. One solution was a one billion dollar bond to pay for new schools. This passed…but the schools still could not be built fast enough. Finally, the board decided on year round schools. The kids could be divided into 4 “tracks”. At any one time during the year, 3 tracks of students would be attending class while 1 track would be on break. The sessions would last about 9 weeks with a 3-week vacation between each session. So, if 100 students lived in the area, only 75 would be in school at any one time while 25 would be on break. So. This seemed like a good idea…and in fact, the board decided to mandate this schedule for only a few schools. The problem was…some parents just didn’t like it.

I’m not sure exactly why. Perhaps the parents recalled their childhood of lazy summer days in simpler times. Or maybe there were other kids in the family attending a traditional schedule school (such as most high schools) and having multiple school schedules was just too much a pain. Or perhaps, they didn’t like the fact that Bobby might not be able to attend softball or soccer or swim team practice, or participate in band with such a schedule. Nevertheless…19 elementary schools (and 3 middle schools) were mandated to start the year-round schedule, thus orientations and arrangements had begun by schools, families, and out-of-school care programs. The year-round school year was to start on July 9…about 2 months from now.

Regardless of the plans to modify school programs and schedules, a group of complaining parents sued the school board. Many thought it was a useless and frivolous suit. After all…everything was already being changed to accommodate the year-round schedule. Well, today, Judge Howard Manning decided it was unconstitutional for the school board to mandate year-round schools. So now…who knows what the school year will hold in 2 months.

Now let me share my commentary. Year-round school is my preference. I have twins that, barring any failure of a grade, should be in the same grade throughout their educational career. There is no chance that I’ll have one kid in year-round school while another child attends a school on a more traditional schedule. I feel that any extracurricular activity wills more than likely accommodate the school’s schedule, so soccer games and swim meets will still be offered. And my kids are in year-round day care now, so there’ll be virtually no adjustment to the schedule for them and minimal adjustment of the family scheduling as well. In addition, I feel that year-round schooling is better for the kids. Again, it’s just my preference. Respectfully, I understand the argument for traditional scheduling for reasons I surmised above. Additionally, on a 9 week program, is can be argued that the first week and last weeks would be hardly efficient as most first and last weeks are not. This would result in only 7 weeks of good schooling in a 12-week period. Like I said, I understand and respect their point…it’s just not my preference.

My point for this vent isn’t the argument for or against year-round school. It’s 100% about the fact that a judge’s decision at the eleventh hour has resulted in the upheaval and uncertainty of the upcoming school year for 20,000 kids. The school board, which I believe strongly considered all options before deciding on year-round schools, must now revisit and decide on another plan, and enact it in less than 2 months. There is no way an appeal of the judge’s decision will save this school year, so schools are forced to respond quickly.

One oft-discussed option is that of split shift school attendance. This would divide the school into two shifts of 7:00AM to 12:30PM and 1:30PM to 7:00PM. Now I ask you…would you prefer year-round, or traditional with your child attending school until 7:00 at night? And if such child attended the late shift, when exactly is he or she expected to do his or her homework? Certainly, once arriving home and eating dinner at 8:00, bedtime is soon to follow. And for a good amount of families, the parents go to work early the next morning as the children are taken to some off-hour school care. One other point about this split shift is that a full lunch would NOT be provided. Therefore…would these 19 (plus more) schools have to fire their cafeteria staff?

The School Board is having an emergency meeting tomorrow. I wish them the best of luck. And I truly hope that whatever decision they’ve been basically forced to make will be honored and not met with a lawsuit. For goodness sakes…let’s just get the kids into school and not teach them how to misuse the civil law system to get what they want at the expense of 20,00 other kids.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more!!!