Full Days of School

I know that another post griping about school is going to make me look like I’m “anti-teacher.” I’m not. They do a job that I have consciously decided that I am not cut out for – spend all day, every day, schooling my son. My problem is with the system as a whole.

Josh started school on Aug. 23. Today is the end of his fourth week of school. And he has not yet had a “full” week of school. The first week, three “half” days – dismissal at 1:00 PM. Second week, two “heat days”, where they were dismissed around noon because it was too hot to go to school. Third week, regularly scheduled Early Out on Wednesday (1:00 PM) for Teacher In-Service. And now, the Fourth Week, tomorrow is a day off for a “Teacher’s Institute/Faith Formation Day.” I must point out that this day off is not extended to the Public School in our town. All of the rest coincide with their schedule. And it doesn’t stop there. Next Wednesday is another pre-scheduled early out at 1:00. These occur every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of EVERY MONTH of the school year.

Am I out of line in being more than a little frustrated here? Honestly, “Heat Days”? Let me call forward those words that all of us swore, when we became parents, that we would never utter: “When WE were kids….” We would have paid good money for the school district to consider dismissing school early because it was too hot. But when we suggested it – and believe me, we did; anything to get out of school for a couple hours – our parents, the teachers, everyone laughed in our faces. Silly kids! Being hot is good for you. Besides, we’ve opened the windows and we have a fan. Consider yourselves lucky. And this was ‘back in the day’ when you weren’t allowed to stop at the drinking fountain when you left Gym, much less have a water bottle sitting on your desk.

I feel like I’m sounding like an old curmudgeon, but seriously. We pay good money to these schools: not only do we (the general public) pay our taxes, which increase regularly, but we, personally, pay extra to send our son to a parochial school. In essence, we pay tuition twice, for a single child to attend school. And I don’t feel like I’m getting my money’s worth when I know that the administration is watching the clock, waiting for it to strike the Magic Hour of 11:30 (or whatever the time is) so they can still get their “credit” for Federal Funding for a full day of school, even though they send the kids home early.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for a snow day here and there – weather gets nasty, snow piles up and pipes freeze. On top of that, we are a rural district, so road conditions must be considered more than most. Sometimes it does get too bitterly cold for kids to safely walk to and from school, or to stand for any length of time at a bus stop. I’m thinking here of days when the actual temp reaches into the -30s, without windchill. But “Heat Days”? These same children, for whom it is “too hot” to sit in a classroom, would gladly be running around like lunatics in full sun when it is 20 degrees warmer!

I don’t understand, either, why we must have “early outs” once every two weeks. Studies have shown, and educators are quick to point out, that a regular, predictable schedule is vital to learning. So what do they turn around and do? Interrupt that schedule every couple of weeks with “Institute/Planning Days” – either Early Outs or Days Off. Consequently, we’re in the fourth week, and STILL have not had a regulation full week of school.

At the risk of sounding unsympathetic, why are those “planning hours” more important than the student’s education? Why can’t planning take place after the children leave? Before school? During summer? I know that there are papers to grade. I know that there are lessons to prepare. I know that some teachers take on extra duties, like coaching; I know they do Continuing Education, as well. But I also know that most school days run from 8-3, that most teachers have a lunch hour and a “planning hour” when their students are not under their supervision, and their classrooms are empty.

Am I the only person who has a problem with this? When did it start? Why does it continue?

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25 Responses to Full Days of School

  1. mssc54 says:

    Wait… Your son goes to a parochial skool and they dismiss early when the temperature gets high?! “If you think THIS is hot, you just keep eating meat on Friday, missing Mass, having those impure thoughts and you will feel REAL heat for all eternity!

    Sounds like Bishop Fru Gal is trying to make that skool last a very long time. Not to mention saving on the light bill!

    • Laura says:

      We are on the same schedule as the Public Schools, because we have an agreement with them to use the buses. So… if Public dismisses early, so does our school. It’s very rare – and usually happens in spring when we’re trying to make up snow days – that we have school when they don’t. And then there is plenty of warning so the parents can make alternate transportation arrangements.

  2. Joy says:

    I’ll say more about this tomorrow but my first thought is what about the parents who work? Our school district has a late start but it’s not every month. It’s something like every 6 weeks or so and they’re on the calender so you at least know. We also have early release for some blizzard days but then again, you can usually tell when that’s going to happen. But “hot” days? How in the world can you see that coming and do they take the kids home if the parents are at work? Do they call or how does that work?

    • Laura says:

      Many of the kids whose parents work go to the local DayCare center, so they just go there. Ironically, it’s on the property of the Public School………

  3. Just a Mom says:

    My daughter goes to Catholic School and we let out an hour early every “full week” of school. We started in August as well and so far we have only had Labor day off. I guess we are lucky as almost every building in Texas has central A/C. If not our kids would never go to school. But WHEN I WAS KID we never got to wear shorts to school unless the A/C broke down. These kids nowadays wear shorts every single day! Yes, even in Catholic School they wear shorts.

  4. Inflation! It’s a sign of the times. Everything costs more and you get less. The cancer state of capitalism. Have you considered homeschooling?

    • Laura says:

      Yes, I’ve considered homeschooling very seriously, and no, it is not for us, which is why we chose to send him to a Parochial School.

    • Joy says:

      I’m not a fan of homeschooling at all and I’m glad you decided against it Laura. Working in a school gave me the chance to see how “some/most” home-schooled kids are treated by their peers as they do have to go to school for a few things like music and gym and a lot of the state testings. They used to be anyway. Talk about being singled out and being the last one picked for a team. Some of those kids never recover from that and pure and simple, some, no matter what, never develop close friendships with people because they’ve been “sheltered” and “singled” out.

      • Jenny says:

        Jason and his brother were homeschooled. Never had a problem making friends. Jason was on a recreational soccer team also met friends through church. I see no problem with homeschooling a child. You would just need to get them into other activities so that they can have the friendships with other kids.

      • Joy says:

        We had two brothers who were home-schooled and they tried and tried but never fit in. They were spoiled rotten rich kids and they acted like it. It’s those “types” I’m talking about. They can’t get along with anyone so very conveniently get taught at home?

        And I don’t mean everyone Jenny. There area always exceptions. Just out of curiosity, other than his brother, who are friends that he talks to and does things with? Does he have any long lost childhood friends like you do? Anyone he hunts with or texts or visits when he goes home? Home schooled children seem lonely to me. But, then again, I was with them on the playground while they waited for their mom to pick them up from music or gym and they didn’t play with the other kids. It made me feel bad. They stood with me and talked to me because they didn’t really know anyone. But of course, there are exceptions to every rule and it’s not like this for everyone. Take a look though at the people who live down the road from us. Their kids don’t go anywhere. We never see them.

        • SKL says:

          For the record, the only people from high school that I ever talked to after graduation were my siblings. Again, the mere fact of spending half of one’s waking hours under the same roof does not guarantee lifelong friendships.

        • Jenny says:

          Jason has 1 buddy that has moved to Arkansas and is in the military. He texts with him when his buddy is home. Also when we go down to SC we always catch up with another buddy of his. Jason was always outgoing so it was never hard for him to make new friends. Can you see him being shy? lol NO WAY!!

          If you’re gonna homeschool your kids I think its up to the parent to get the child out there and make friends in other activities. Not to live a sheltered life. The only time I see those kids down the road from us is when someone is running on the road!

      • SKL says:

        I think one should ask oneself why the child is being homeschooled, and whether he’d have been popular in any case. What you described above (treatment of the homeschooled kids) was my life in school. I hated it. I was never homeschooled. I was just different. I had plenty of fun with the neighborhood kids (who attended different schools) and I grew up in a houseful of kids, so it wasn’t a lack of social exposure. Maybe I would have done better were I homeschooled. At least then I would not have had the constant cloud of “I don’t fit in” every single school day until my graduating year. (I graduated early, so my last year was with a lot of kids 1-2 years older; those should have been my peer group, I guess.)

        I also think kids will single out the kid who is new or different in any case – to test them or just to have fun at their expense. I also think a lot of school kids’ parents also have attitudes against home schooling which they have expressed in front of their kids, so the homeschool kids come in with an extra handicap to overcome.

        Also, I have to say that I don’t see what’s so wonderfully social about public school. Most of the time kids are not allowed to interact with each other, and when they are, most of that is so structured that it is not natural. Kids have to fear being taunted, bullied, beaten up, stolen from. Kids are discouraged from sharing anything substantive unless it’s a common interest of most kids. You can talk about football, but don’t dare bring up the book you are reading. Popular movie, OK; broadway show, no way. You’re forced to get naked in front of people you don’t like (so they can comment on your bra size), and not allowed to sit next to the person you do like. Nowadays they even have “friendship coaches” that prevent best friends from hanging out together on the playground. I don’t see any of that as promoting healthy social development. At any rate, it’s no better than a homeschool group that arranges frequent extracurricular and social get-togethers.

        Don’t get me wrong – I have no desire to pull my kids out of school. But I do believe that the assumption that homeschooling harms kids’ social development is unfounded.

      • Laura says:

        One of the things I considered when I was thinking of Homeschooling Josh was the ‘socialization’ aspect of it. We are fortunate that in our area there is a very active Homeschooling group which arranges a lot of things from ‘mixed classes’ (I’ll teach a group music class, Joe, being a research scientist, will lead the science classes) to group field trips. And, until budget concerns cut it last year, Homeschooled kids were welcomed with open arms into the extracurricular programs of the Public School – including music, after-school sports, and social events like dances.

        Had I chosen the HS route, I would have become very active in this local group, since, living in the country where we do, Josh doesn’t have the opportunity that most kids do – “go outside and play” . There are no kids his age living around here, so if he “goes out to play”, he’s doing it alone.

        But we are very fortunate that the school we chose is an excellent one. Except for the fact that they have to follow Public’s schedule, which just drives me absolutely up the wall.

    • Joy says:

      This subject wasn’t about homeschooling or the “cancer state of capitalism.” Please keep to the subject. This arguing isn’t what we like here.

  5. Laura says:

    ** we will see, in 2013, if this changes at all, with the “heat days”. Our town, just last week, (after I wrote this) voted to build a new High School, thank GOD. Our HS is something like 50 years old, and hasn’t been able to pass code for the last several years. Nearly every system in that building is held together with duct tape, spit and prayers. I suspect that our “heat days” are due to the awful conditions in that building. So, perhaps we won’t have so many after it’s built? But that still doesn’t fix the rest of the scheduled Early Outs and days off.

    I just noticed the calendar… we have ANOTHER day off coming on Oct. 7.

  6. SKL says:

    When I was a kid, they didn’t start school in August, so that could have made a difference.

    We didn’t have fans, let alone air conditioners. We never got time off for heat! Snow days, yes, here and there in a real true blizzard (chest deep, uphill both ways).

    But yes, I do think they should give some more thought to consistency, especially for young kids. Not being a teacher, I honestly can’t judge whether or not the “teacher in-service days” are justified. One wonders why they have to spread so many out over the year. Why not have a couple in-service weeks in August, December, and at Spring Break, and keep the school year consistent? And why do they have early dismissal every other Wednesday?

    I have a sweet deal with Miss A, because she is welcome to come to school even on days when the teacher is off. They just put someone else in the room to watch the kids. They only have like 6 days per year that the facility is closed.

    When the girls are in 1st grade, I will have to have one or more backup plans for times when the kids are off but I have to work. Most of the time I can adjust (like I do when one of them is sick), but for whole days off, they have “camps” at the local rec center or science museum, and if that doesn’t suffice, maybe I could find a high school student who could be on call to sit with them on every official day off school.

  7. Nikki says:

    When I saw on FB that they were let out because of heat, I couldn’t believe it! Kids need to be in school! Heat? Suck it up! Unless it was dangerously hot (which I don’t think it was, but I don’t live there) then I say they need to deal with it and make it through the day.

    Our school district wouldn’t take a day off even if the kids were dropping like flies, and that’s also a problem. I think a school should only be allowed a certain amount of days called off. Exceptions will always come into play however. All these days off, are they made up at the end of the school year?

    • Laura says:

      If I recall correctly, the temps were hovering between 85 and 90. We’d had MUCH hotter days over the summer, when it lingered in the 100’s for several days on end. The thing is, this seems like an “Iowa Thing”, or at least a NE Iowa thing… ours wasn’t the only school closed! Schools all over the area were closing, and making the announcement at 9AM. It is very, very frustrating.

      They *do* make them up during the summer. Our school will also use days like Easter Monday (I never, ever make plans for Easter Weekend) as make-up days, which kind of helps. One thing that I do like is that we don’t have Easter/Spring Break around here. We go back to school in January, and all we have off for Easter is Good Friday and Easter Monday, if that day isn’t taken for a Make-Up day.

      However… none of these days that I’ve mentioned will be made up. Either the “out” was called after the Federal Cutoff (they kept the kids in school for a Regulation Half day), or they are pre-scheduled and in the calendar, so they don’t need to be made up. All of the pre-scheduled “Early Outs” occur after that federal time deadline, as well. So the school gets federal credit (and dollars) for a full day of school, but the kids don’t get a full day of learning. THAT’S what frustrates me the most in all of this.

  8. Laura says:

    Here is one of the reasons this is stuck so hard in my craw… and if I already said this, I apologize. When the schools call these “early outs” for whatever reason – whether scheduled or unscheduled, weather related or not – they wait until they are sure that they will receive “credit” for a full day of school from the government. So that means that they are being paid for teaching a full day of school, but the kids are not receiving the benefit of that education. To me, that’s just wrong.

    I don’t know if there’s a different view of the situation when it’s a “teacher planning day” as opposed to another kind of dismissal in the eyes of those dishing out the bucks, but they should all be the same.

    • Joy says:

      It really doesn’t seem right that they do get the credit but the kids aren’t learning. The “teacher planning” days are just like everything else. You have some teachers who use them for that and you have others who sleep in and go in late like the kids do. It’s the same thing for MEA and all of that stuff too. Some teachers take advantage of things and other’s go on vacation. Nothing is mandatory at those conferences. Mandatory things are done at various times during the year and the kids go to school and the teachers get subs.

  9. Nikki says:

    Have you thought about keeping track of the hours lost, including “why” they were lost and taking that to your school board at the end of the year?

  10. Phyllis says:

    It certainly does seem as though the schools actually “teach” a lot of shorter days and less days as well. I just don’t get it myself, and I really believe that it’s ridiculous! Is it any wonder that so many school age kids test A LOT lower these days than we did “back in the day”?

    I know that this is a bit off topic, but not completely…. I’ve read a lot recently that the “average high” I. Q nowadays is a staggering 99? I’d like to know when and why double digit IQ is now considered high? Could it be a direct result of all the time off from school? I know I’ve been out of school a long, long time, 1969 to be exact, but seriously, back in the day, an “average” was 125, and the majority of us quite a bit higher than that! Laura, I know back in your day it was the same. I’d also like to point out that we were considered “overcrowded” since we were the baby-boomers and classes ranged to as many as 35 kids per class. That’s not the situation today, so why such a drop in general knowledge? I seriously consider it to be in direct correlation to what is being taught as well as the time spent teaching the subjects. Of course when “I WAS A KID” our parents worked with us at home as well. If we were having trouble with a subject the folks would come alongside and make sure we understood the class work. That’s not always the case today because families just don’t seem to have the time together that we once did. It’s a pretty sad state of affairs.

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