In that fantasy of a perfect world that won’t ever exist, surely there would be far less angst over minor details. Especially bureaucratic details.
Instead, we have a school board on Tuesday that likely will be at odds because of a span of seven days in two school calendars.
Set aside the fact that the school board probably shouldn’t be involved in approving the specifics of a school-year calendar anyway. Trustees are supposed to set policy, not get involved in such nuts-and-bolts minutia.
But they do, because they can. That isn’t guided by a hard-core principle or philosophical underpinning; it’s just a reality of what people do when put in charge. The more they control, the more they want to control.
Which brings us to Tuesday, when the board likely is to continue the 3-2 split they had two weeks ago over when to start the 2013-14 school year.
Obviously the start date matters quite a bit to Mike Sleeper and Kristi Baker, who voted two weeks ago against starting school Aug. 7, 2013. They prefer to open later, and argued with other trustees about it – so much so that teachers’ aides facing job cuts said it sure seemed that board members cared more about the calendars than about school system employees. Ouch.
The reason it matters is that some vocal people oppose starting school in early August. Yet many of those people demanding a long summer also want a fall break, and a full week off for Thanksgiving, and two weeks off at Christmas.
The school year is set at 180 days. Officials try to keep the two semesters close to the same length, and they prefer to end the first semester before the Christmas holiday.Those realities logically suggest an early August start.
Opponents give plenty of reasons for wishing it could be done differently, but it basically comes down to one reason: Convenience. An earlier start, with summer still in full blast, cuts into possible family vacation time. For all the ginned-up excuses about heat and summer jobs and whatever else, none of the opposition is about educational value.
For school bureaucrats who design the calendars, including the extra mid-semester holidays are a way to grant some of that convenience. From that point, the start date is just a matter of counting backward.
Yet for all this we argue about a few days? Why?
Just because we can?
A recent study found that students perform better with a four-day school week. Yet some systems are switching to a shorter week not for better performance, but to save money; the biggest opponents aren’t parents who dispute the educational value, but those who are forced, inconveniently, to find additional child care.
Superintendent Charles Nagle finds the study results intriguing, but predictably says there’s no way he’d get out in front of suggesting such a switch, even in light of the public school system’s continued money crunch.
Yet if given the choice of having to find someone to look after their kid one day a week, versus having them start a traditional school year in early August, those parents likely would prefer ringing the five-days-a-week bells a few days sooner.
Not because it’s better educationally, but simply because we can.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-963-6165. Follow at twitter.com/barrypaschal.)