The reason I am on vacation this week is because my children are out of school due to the new Decatur “balanced” calendar, which has students back in class Aug. 1 and out of school for a week in September, in February and in April.
I don’t care for the schedule, which was apparently put in place not to boost student achievement, for which the research is dubious, but to recruit teachers. The conventional wisdom is that teachers like the shorter summers and frequent breaks throughout the year. (A close teacher pal hates the schedule as she can’t attend a standing family reunion in August, and she says the week-long breaks get the students off focus, but I assume she is the exception.)
While this calendar does not work well for me, I am resigned to it.
Not so in Cobb where some parents continue to oppose the adoption of a similar calendar there. One mom sent me a note complaining about the 90-degree plus temperatures when the kids went back this year in August.
She wrote, “The average high in mid Sept. is 81. The cost of air conditioning buildings at 95 degrees or higher, compared to 81 degrees, must be hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars more. The weeks off in Feb. and Sept., days off before Thanksgiving, and six staff days should be put back as regular school days. The Georgia Legislature should mandate a Sept. 1 start date and a June 1 end date for all state schools. With deficits in the millions of dollars, a calendar that is 175 days from Sept. 1 to June 1 should save money and energy.”
There are also practical challenges to a balanced calendar. Very few camps have sprung up during the September and February breaks so parents either take off from work or find a sitter. And if children are in sports, the games and practices play on, break or no break. I know people who couldn’t go away this week because their children have sports commitment.
Cobb’s school board is considering a switch back to a traditional calendar and will take up the issue at its Thursday meeting. The district is seeking input through an online survey.
I don’t count in a Cobb vote and nobody is asking me in Decatur, but my nod would go to the old calendar.
–Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog