If ever there was a trial balloon that was starting to look dead on arrival, it's the county's proposal to send elementary school children home early one day a week to provide more time for teacher planning. The reaction from parents threatens to poke holes in the idea and deflate it before it even lifts off.
We haven't seen many reasons yet to support the idea, either. Surely there are ways to structure the school day so that elementary teachers can have more time for planning without closing school early to do so. After all, high school teachers get a full hour of planning time each day; middle school teachers get 90 minutes. Why should planning time for elementary teachers be squeezed to just 30 minutes?
Yet even though the need for more planning time is pretty plain, it can't be emphasized enough that a school system's idea for creating it is thus far just a proposal. Some parents are reacting as if it's a set-in-stone done deal, and have all but closed their ears -- and their minds -- to any explanations that the plan is for now only a complicated version of thinking out loud.
Columbia County is regarded as one of the finest school systems in the state. Sure, part of that designation is totally beyond the control of educators: The raw material they're working with is pretty good. But a lot of the credit still goes to committed, energetic teachers who work long hours every day to bring quality education to the children of this community.
Aren't those people professionals? Haven't we fought for years to raise their pay to reflect the esteem in which we hold them? Shouldn't we encourage them to be innovative, to "think outside the box" as they seek ways to improve their delivery of education?
If the answers are all "yes," then why the almost hysterical reaction to this idea? One parent group even demanded an immediate end to any study of early release -- not to implementation, mind you, but to the inquiry itself. Fortunately, they've since acknowledged that more study is indeed OK as long as other avenues to provide more elementary planning time are looked at, too.
That's the way it ought to be. Parents should be skeptical of any proposal that changes the structure of the well-established school day. They ought to demand proof that any new ideas, especially unusual ones, will bring good results.
But they should also show enough respect for the people who care for their kids every day to trust them not to do something harmful to them.
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