Reporter needs your help: Summer too short?

Many Georgia students – in Cobb, Pickens, DeKalb, and other counties — are back in school by early August, traditionally a time for the beach, the pool and family vacations. Is summer slipping away? Some parents, in groups such as Georgians Need Summers, think so. But others are happy to see kids back in school. What are your thoughts? Contact Bo Emerson at 404-526-5759, or at bemerson@ajc.com.
(There is a second topic popping up at 10 today so be sure to check back.)

29 comments Add your comment

GAresident

July 15th, 2010
7:33 am

It seems (although in reality the total number of weeks off may still be the same throughout the year) that the traditional ’summer’ is indeed becoming a thing of the past. Especially in these cash-strapped times, it might make more sense to adjust the calendar to avoid running the schools in the heat of summer. Then again, that might make too much sense to be a valid idea.

justmy2cents

July 15th, 2010
7:48 am

I say make it shorter and let’s go to year round schooling!!! Also, uniforms for all schools. Let’s get back to education, not worrying whether little Johhny had enough beach time.

motherjanegoose

July 15th, 2010
7:51 am

@ Ga resident…I once read a statement from an elected officia.l in the AJC, who shared that we need to continue to start back to school in August as the test scores have improved (in GA) since we began starting school in August. WHAT?

Here is a novel idea: see if the school districts that start AFTER Labor Day have test scores that are worse or better than ours in GA. I challenge that many might be better and that the earlier start date has nothing to do with it. The length of summer vacation perhaps. Children who start back later generally get out ( for summer break) later too!

I am not a statistics or research person….anyone?

Some northern schools run their heat in the dead of the winter and that has got to be expensive too…when the temp. hovers around zero for weeks on end. Even warming the buses up to pick the kiddos up for school.

motherjanegoose

July 15th, 2010
7:55 am

Just an observation for those outside of GA…many look down their noses at our state educationally.
While we do have some terrible school districts….others are wonderful.

I met a Mom from NYC on Monday in Athens. They moved here a few years ago and her friends were all aghast at the idea of her putting her daughter in school here. She had her in Catholic school there. She shared that she was thrilled with the education her daughter received in Hall County Public Schools.

A saying she shared was; “Don’t judge all dogs by one who has fleas.” I loved it.

JoDee

July 15th, 2010
8:00 am

Four weeks of time off from school in the summer is ample for families to take a “traditional” summer vacation. We don’t need such a long break.

Perhaps if the time off were balanced throughout the year, new family traditions would emerge—-a trip to New England to see fall foliage, enjoy local harvest festivals, and take history tours of the cities there when it isn’t beastly hot…….. a trip to the desert Southwest in the late winter to see the cacti blooming and to really enjoy a Grand Canyon trip when it isn’t 110 degrees……..a trip to any of our National Parks at any time of the year when it isn’t crowded…..and HOT…..and overpriced…..

I teach Social Studies, and I love to travel, especially to gain more experiences to enhance my teaching, but only being able to travel in the summer is really limiting. Last summer when I visited the Parthenon in Greece, it was 117 degrees out. The experience would have been so much more enjoyable if I had done it in, say, February, when it isn’t so hot.

Perhaps if we had a more balanced schedule, families would find a little more balance in their vacation time together. What is so special about summer? The other three seasons are great times for vacations, too.

Tara

July 15th, 2010
8:10 am

Our education system in GA is a joke…yes, we have a few great school districts, but as a WHOLE, it sucks. We’re right near the bottom in rankings.

As someone else suggested…someone needs to start looking at successful states around the nation and start mirroring what they do in their schools. We are doing a HUGE disservice to our children by under educating them. School boards/city councils/et al. are spending time trying to figure out how to balance budgets, get new turf for football stadiums and shorten the school year or reduce the number of days per week kids go to school…NOT how to properly educate our kids.

It’s embarrassing.

lakerat

July 15th, 2010
8:19 am

Forsyth County schools start back this year on Aug. 9th. It is my understanding that Fulton County schools will start back about that time, too. However, Fulton County is lengthening their school days by 10 – 20 minutes this year, thus shortening their scheduled number of days. They will get out by Memorial Day in 2011, and not start back until after Labor Day in 2011. Sounds like a plan to me, with their setting an example of how to be creative in dealing with ways to make their school year more efficient.

motherjanegoose

July 15th, 2010
8:24 am

@ Tara…re the dog/flea. When we began looking at colleges for our children, over 6 years ago, we were told that students from Gwinnett County are ***generally*** excellent students and an asset to any college.. We moved here FOR THE SCHOOLS 20 years ago. We have been pleased with our choice. Not all schools are on the same level, for sure.

As an educator, you can only work with what you get. If the children that come in are “hamburger” you cannot make them into prime rib….maybe a nice swiss steak. If parents give us something we can work with…we will do our best. Some teachers have worked miracles and I, for one, am impressed!

Many successful midwestern states have a completely different set of parents than the parents who send their kids to school in GA. Family values do play an important part and we are kidding ourselves if we are too PC to address it.

Superficial attitudes about material bling are not as common in some other areas. GASP…there are HS students that do not own a cell phone or ipod.
The high school girls do not wear acrylic nails or have their hair done at a salon….imagine it?

Cheryl

July 15th, 2010
8:27 am

Regarding starting after Labor Day, many here and on the other blog where this was posted yesterday seem to think starting dates are the same across Ga. In Savannah public schools start later and get out later, and they are (and always have been) horrible!

Why do these blogs...

July 15th, 2010
8:53 am

…always dance around the elephant in the room when trying to compare southern schools to northern or midwestern schools? The fact that most of the southern, and especially GA, AL, MS, and many other states have far larger minority populations than northern or midwestern cities and suburbs, with African-Americans making up the largest minority in the South, makes these comparisons “apples to oranges”. Face it, there are many reasons for the disparity in the “systems” re: north v south – but the major factor is RACE.

Just a couple of weeks ago Gwinnett County learned that it now has “minority races” (black, Asian, etc) as the MAJORITY make up of the county, with whites now comprising less than 50% of the population. Cobb County is now up to 40+% minority, Dekalb County 78% minority, Fulton County well over 70% minority, while Forsyth County is now up to 20% minority.

And, the NAACP thinks the Tea Party is racist…

Allie

July 15th, 2010
9:11 am

It’s not like parents aren’t informed when their childrens’ vacation time is. That gives them ample time to schedule a beach vacation if they so want. August doesn’t necessarily have to be the time for that.

As far as the length of time out of school correlating directly with academic performance, how do you explain school years in Europe, where kids can get up to three months off for summer break, two weeks off at Christmas and Easter, plus mid-term breaks and long weekends for government holidays, and still have a high academic standard they maintain?

Lori

July 15th, 2010
9:14 am

My son goes to school in Henry County. We start back in school in the first week of August as well. I much prefer that than the way it used to be. We get out of school just before Memorial Day and still get 2 full months of summer break (9 weeks this summer). Do we really need more than that? I love having those couple of extra weeks during the year. Fall break in September is a fantastic time for a family vacation because not a lot of school systems are on this calendar so places like Disney World are not crowded at all and it’s still great weather for the beach in September. I love getting the extra week in February too. With the old schedule, after Christmas break, you used to have those never-ending months until Spring Break before another vacation. Now we get a week off in the middle of that to recharge! The February break is a great time for a “Winter” type vacation (and still not crowded since most schools aren’t out). I’ve even gone on cruises that week!! Our summers are only 2 weeks shorter to accommodate the breaks during the year, and I find those breaks a much needed relief.

CDD

July 15th, 2010
9:30 am

If my kids were still in public I think I’d think it was a little soon to be going back. But we’re starting back on 8/30. I’m also trying out a 4-day school schedule w/ the 5th day as still a learning day but not as structured. So we’ll have a “free” day to do fun things like cooking (fractions, time management skills, prioritizing,) going to the park (tons of nature there,) or grocery shopping (with them doing most everything except pulling out the credit card & signing for it.) I love homeschooling. I know it isn’t for everyone but it’s so much better for us.

TechMom

July 15th, 2010
9:43 am

Lori, I live in Henry county too and do NOT like our school calendar. The only parents that I know who like it have kids in elementary and have time & money to travel on breaks. Wait until you have kids in high school who play sports and you’ll understand why I think it’s a waste. We don’t get a week off for fall break or winter break because they schedule practices and games during the breaks. Why? Because schools we play aren’t on break. If you miss practices, you don’t get to play the games; if you miss a game, you’re punished during the next week’s practices and games. Take our fall break schedule for example: Friday night football game, Sat-Mon off, Tues- Thurs practice, Fri-game. So basically we get a 3 day weekend. If that’s all I’m getting, then I’d like those 4 days back in August.

Plus, do kids REALLY need a break from school only 6 weeks into the year (and the week after a 3-day weekend)? Do they really need the entire week of Thanksgiving off only to turn around 3 weeks later and get 2 1/2 weeks off? AND then get another week off 6 weeks later? Not really. I’d be much happier with a couple of long (4-day) weekends and start back to school in mid-August versus August 2nd.

One of the issues that starting back to school so early has caused for us is that we miss out on a family wedding or reunion every year. My extended family is from Michigan and they don’t go back to school until after Labor Day (& only get out a week later than us by the way). But consequently that means that it’s still summer for all of them and every year major functions are scheduled for August. We can’t go to any because our son has already started back to school and it’s not worth plane tickets up there for only a weekend visit.

HB

July 15th, 2010
10:28 am

Stats person here…MJG, it is a far better measure to look at the same school district’s scores with earlier and later start dates because if all else remained pretty much the same, there’s a good chance the schedule change did indeed make a difference (and it’s not unlikely that it does improve scores to have a few more weeks of classtime before taking the test). If you look at a different school system that starts later, you really don’t know that an earlier start date wouldn’t raise their scores too. They may have higher scores with a later start for other reasons — higher income families, more children who attended preschool, different daily schedules, different student-teacher ratio, etc.

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

July 15th, 2010
11:10 am

@Why do these blogs…I disagree that your premise that race and race alone is the sole factor to the discrepancies. It’s socio-economic dynamics, not race alone. Now I’ll give you that more minorities live in lower socio-economic demographics than whites do and that has very far reaching ramifications regarding education. But to say GA schools acheive less success because there are more minority students I think is misguided. If you had said that GA schools have a higher rate of students living at and below the poverty level, and the majority of those students are minority, I think you’ve got an argument. But to make it all about race is one step away from saying minority students have some genetic defect that doesn’t enable them to be as intelligent as white students, and I don’t think that is the case at all.

Lurker

July 15th, 2010
11:42 am

I think it makes more sense to start school in early September and get out in early June. It is not nearly as hot in June as it is in August. Utility costs would be much cheaper. The reason we don’t do this has little to do with education or saving money. It is about football. Games must start in late August so that the championships can be played near Thanksgiving.

b

July 15th, 2010
12:14 pm

Our summers are just as long as summers elsewhere in the country; we just get out earlier and go back earlier. I would actually prefer having school last longer in the spring, to mid-June and then start the latter part of August, around the 20th. Actually, thinking about it, I would rather only have four-six weeks off in the summer. I pay for a tutor all summer so that reading and math stay in place plus for most students there is the summer reading that has to be done, etc. I can’t take a huge vacation because of work so really why shouldn’t my child be in school?

Judi

July 15th, 2010
2:10 pm

I really don’t think as parents we want less schooling for our kids, but I can’t see the harm in moving the school year back another two weeks – end mid June and begin the new year closer to Labor Day. Reason, July and August are generally the hottest months of the school year, we have recently seen a spike in heat related injuries and even deaths of children participating in sports, marching band and summer recreational activities. Since the beginning of June is still relatively cool, maybe a later end of year and an later start of the new school year is not such a bad thing. The school year can still be the same.

Tiger, your response...

July 15th, 2010
2:55 pm

…is what I expected from one who has not been in the south for an extended period of time, if at all (I am a born and raised Atlantan – so I have seen, and been part of it all – and I am old now). And, at the same time, I did not mean to infer that there is some genetic defect. The premise that I meant to convey is that just as the more kids who take the SAT in a school system, the more likely that that system will have an overall lower mean score compared to systems that do not have as many kids take the test. In other words, the south has a way higher grip on the demographics of racial groups that score lower, thus the results overall SEEM to indicate that the south has more dumba– in its school systems than do nothern, midwestern, or even mountain state schools.

And, did y’all catch that bear yet?

Den Mother

July 15th, 2010
5:28 pm

As the mother of two, and resident of Cobb, I am thrilled with the prospect of a “balanced calendar”. I would really love for summer to be shorter than the 10 weeks it was scheduled this year. Yes, I understand the argument that it costs more to cool a building in August than September, but by this time each year children are couped up inside being entertained by the boob tube because it’s too hot to play outside. I would much rather my children be in a classroom learning than bored at home. There are other economic considerations to make as well. While I am a stay at home mom, my working friends struggle every year with paying for childcare over the summer. Spreading out breaks over the year is much easier on the wallet or perhaps families might be able to trade off care through out the year. Lastly, my family lives in Florida and being able to visit them in September and February sounds so refreshing. Not only will we avoid tourists, but maybe enjoy our time there when it’s not so hot. The Labor Day to June school year is in existence today because we were an agraian culture. The school year revolved around the planting/harvesting schedule. While some cultures still rely on child labor for food production, we do not. It’s time to evolve and consider educating our children year round.

FCM

July 15th, 2010
5:51 pm

IF they don’t get the child to teacher ratio back down and stop this folish everybody is equal and should be treated the same BS it won’t matter a wit. Get the kids back in classes by ability with enough GOOD teachers to teach them. Get GOOD enrichment programs like Music and Drama back in the school. Get recess back to mandatory and not on the whims of the teacher’s thought on it being too hot. Less formal structure learning in ES and more creative learning. More critical thinking in HS….

othewise who cares as it will be a nation of stupid sheet being lead by those who think they know better…in which case here comes China to take over!

motherjanegoose

July 15th, 2010
6:04 pm

HB,thanks for clarifying. . I still do not see how SAT or ACT tests can be raised or lowered by what month the kids start school. There are plenty of states that start in September and their scores are higher than ours.. Are you saying that our SAT or ACT scores have improved since we started school earlier? I am not getting it. GA is usually at the bottom of the pack for these scores and it is my understanding that this is partially due to the fact that a greater percentage of HS students are required to take the test, even if they are not going to college.

penguinmom

July 15th, 2010
10:19 pm

I understood some of the reason for an earlier start was in order to get a whole semester (including finals) in before the Christmas break. That way kids don’t come back to a week or two of classes and then finals. I think there is a thought that taking the time off will cause them to forget everything and do poorly on the semester finals.

HB

July 16th, 2010
12:03 am

MJG, it probably doesn’t impact those tests. Early start dates likely raised scores on the standardized tests that all kids take at school (CRCT, ITBS, etc), and I think those are the ones the official was referring to. It’s my understanding that schools have limited (if any) say in when those are administered, so if the test is in April, starting in early August means a whole extra month of instruction pre-test compared with starting after Labor Day.

motherjanegoose

July 16th, 2010
9:12 am

Thanks HB, actually it was in reference to the fact that GA was at the bottom of the pack with SAT and ACT. This is why I was so confused. I absolutely do see your point about the other tests! Thanks!

HB

July 16th, 2010
9:42 am

Yeah, if the official was referencing the SAT/ACT, then I’d definitely like to know how they came to the conclusion that the early start date made the biggest impact on scores. Sounds fishy.

DavidS

July 18th, 2010
1:56 pm

If you homeschooled your children this would never be an issue. Why you continue to let the government decide for you how your children will be raised and when you will turn on and turn off the educational experience is beyond me.

Education should go on all the time, whether you are sitting down with a book or kayaking a growth of mangroves down in the Keys. We have allowed the government bureaucracy and the education monopoly to dictate how and when our children will receive an education and this is at the core of our society’s problems.

The solution is simple. Stop supporting the status quo and get your children out of the prisons and back into your homes and a quality educational environment.

Rita Collier

July 26th, 2010
1:59 am

I’m Black and from California. School ended for us in mid June and started after Labor Day. We always looked forward to a nice summer which seems to be lost here in Georgia, as back to school talk and ads start in July. I feel so sorry for the kids on those hot buses in early August. Also it’s evident your schedule is not working as test scores reveal. It’s not a Black and White issue. It’s the sub standard public education system. I had to help a young (white) lady count small change at a food carry-out recently. She laughed and told me you know the schools aren’t good here. I sent my daughter to a private school here in Atlanta for that reason. She would not have gotten into Georgetown otherwise. Maybe less emphasis on sports and if you can forget everything in two weeks (for those who contend testing before the winter holiday), then you never really knew it to begin with…