We no longer need children in the fields

April 11, 2013

We have commented often here about how difficult it is to enact any sort of change in Pennsylvania, no matter how commonsensical it may be.

Municipal government (Washington County has no fewer than 66 individual governing bodies) is a model of inefficiency, its design predating the telegraph and the railroad. Yet the mere mention or “merger” or “consolidation” is greeted with suspicion and jeers of contempt.

Even the effort to lift county government out of the 19th century by eliminating the antiquated position of jury commissioner faces stiff resistance and court challenges.

So, what sort of reaction can we expect to a proposal to change the public school calendar? If you guessed overreaction, you get a gold star.

Washington School District’s board of directors is considering a calendar for next year that has a 71-day summer break from mid-June to mid-August and longer breaks around the holidays. Most importantly, the schedule calls for 183 days of classroom instruction – three more than the minimum requirement.

At least one district teacher has accused the board and administration of plotting to gradually adjust the calendar until year-round school is achieved. Superintendent Dr. Roberta DiLorenzo denied Monday night that such a plan was intended and defended the summer break as necessary. “Teaching is an emotional career,” she said. “The staff needs time to recuperate.”

The board is expected to vote on the calendar at its April 22 meeting. Chances are, there will be much talk between now and then about what terrible inconveniences will be created by any real change in the calendar: how sports and band activities will be disrupted; how summer job opportunities for teachers and students will vanish; how family vacations will be complicated. And chances are, there will be little discussion about how to improve opportunities for students to learn, to absorb knowledge.

Long summer breaks were necessary when the United States was an agrarian society and children were needed to work in the fields. But this is the 21st century, and we ought to, at least, be discussing what might work best to better educate our children. Year-round school may not be the answer, but mothballing multimillion-dollar facilities for nearly three months is inefficient.

How to improve eduction is a discussion that should be happening all the time, not just in Washington but in all the other 18 districts in Washington and Greene counties.



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