Another Point Of View
First, Opinionator's piece calling for a radical overhaul of the school year called 'The Year Round Teacher' can be found HERE. Porcupine agrees with all of his statistics and facts about the current school year. He merely differs with the solution.
Our current school year is founded upon an agrarian model. School was held during the autumn and winter months when farm labor was at a low ebb, and children were sent home in July and August to help with the all-important harvest. The time when this was necessary (at least in Massachusetts) has long passed. We do not need to expand to a twelve-month school year; rather, we are simply shutting down for the wrong period of time.
If we were to close the schools from Christmas to March 1, we would eliminate several problems simultaneously. We would automatically cut down on the need for snow days, and the dangerousness of transport on slippery roads when snow days are not declared. We would eliminate three of the paid holidays that Opinionator mentions (Christmas, New Years and President's Day) and the attendant lack of production surrounding these holidays in schools. We would entirely eliminate the absences of students who are going to off-Cape destinations to celebrate these holidays, and the whole, 'Hey, what's a few missed days' mentality on the part of parents. We would tremendously cut down on our heating bills for the schools, and be able to lower the temperature to accommodate the maintenance staff as is done now with February school vacation.
Also, consider what we harvest now - off Cape dollars. Cape Cod is still a summer tourist mecca. By having children in school during the prime July and August peak of season, many working women, single mothers and married, would be able to work more profitably by not having to pay for child care during the sumer months. We now have after school programs during the winter months, and there is no reason that they could not be continued for the summer months as well, allowing these caregivers (Porcupine does not want to dismiss single fathers who may be construction workers or home re-modelers from his calculus) to work during the day during the most productive time of the year.
We can move the February vacation to coincide with Independence Day, or perhaps create a one-week hiatus during August, to allow Cape Cod students some time at the ocean with their parents.
Best of all, Porcupine's plan could be implemented without changing current teacher union contracts. These are written to stipulate 180 days - they do not say which 180 days.
Porcupine anticipates the howls of fury from teachers who moonlight as waitstaff, and from parents who will evoke piteous images of children with their noses pressed against the window gazing wistfully at green grass and bright skies. He would answer that children are equally piteous waiting in the dark for school buses on the side of slushy roads in a steep cold wind, and that teachers should decide which vocation they find more profitable and rewarding, and chose one rather than expecting society to enable their extra-curricular jobs.
Will we someday have year-round schools years? Perhaps. But in the interim, let us try Porcupine's plan as a segue, and see if we cannot make a different school year more effective. Full compliments to Opinionator for raising this issue, which Porcupine hopes will produce much discussion.