McHugh David: Balanced school a year a good idea, but will take time to adjust

COVID-19 has pushed schools and their governing bodies – specifically the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education – to reconsider what typical learning looks like in Louisiana.

A focal point is what has been defined as ‘academic slide,’ wherein students who have had a long break from educational activity tend to forget what they learned the year prior – or at least some of it.

In order to hone in on that subject, Louisiana schools are issuing math and literacy tests within the first 60 days of school to see just how much students retained from the year before.

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Louisiana’s new Superintendent of Schools Cade Brumley is an advocate for what is defined as the ‘balanced school year.’ The idea would be to take the 8-10 weeks students have off from school in the summer and chop that up throughout the year.

Keeping the usual breaks intact – Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, (Mardi Gras in Louisiana), etc.

On paper, this is a great idea because it keeps kids engaged in school, gives teachers more interaction with students while also giving them the requisite breaks from the action, and a little known benefit that was dicussed by Superintendent Brumley – it keeps children who might not have the best home life in a safe and educational environment.

For most advocates, there’s still a relatively large break in the middle of summer – closer to four weeks, last two in June and first two in July.

But therein lies the rub with a lot of individuals. Actually, more than just individuals, but whole economies.

Consider the long list of summer activities that are completely based on allowing 8-10 weeks for them to be completed. Vacations, sports, family gatherings, summer events like concerts, sporting events, and festivals – all things that require children to be out of school.

Some may say that all of that can still be done in four weeks, but forget that by doing so there is a reduction in the supply of time, which means that in many cases the events will either be packed, or completely unavailable.

Imagine all the individuals who normally take summer vacation who will now be competing with the rest of the country for rooms or rentals that are only available four weeks, as opposed to ten?

It makes a difference, but none so much as to the places that are heavily reliant on those revenue influxes during the summertime months.

Any kind of resort town, beach town, or tourism hotspot will be losing out on those consecutive weeks of revenue – if they don’t put any more long-term breaks together at later parts of the year.

Then there’s the teachers. They need their time off, definitely, but summer time is also the stretch to prepare for next year – summer trainings, construction, and conferences are all integral for educational leaps forward and innovation.

Perhaps training and conferences will adjust accordingly, as required, since they are based around the education industry anyway.

But what about construction? That’s usually done when campus is empty, and some timelines can’t be made within four weeks.

There’s little argument that the balanced school year is best for the kids, but as with any situation there are consequences – those who will adapt, will survive.

And the best educational situation, is the best action, for the future of the country.

McHugh David is publisher of the Livingston Parish News.