OP-ED: Maybe it is time to think about delivering education in a different way

Judith Higgins
Lower Windsor Township
Judith Higgins, a former Democratic candidate for state senate, is running for the York County Board of Commissioners.

Now, and for quite some time, in virtually every town and city, there is a great deal of discussion about what to do “next” for our students and our educational system. Perhaps it is time to consider year-round school, or a modification of it, with all the county districts participating.

COVID is now part of our life, altering the rules and the ideas of “normal." Our current educational calendar became enshrined as “normal” in most school systems by the early 1900s. The school calendar is thought to have roots in the planting seasons that defined the country’s largely agrarian culture. 

But that explanation leaves out a more complex story about budgetary and cultural concerns that echo the arguments of today. Some worry that year-round school will cost too much, whether buildings are air conditioned or just too old to be running window air conditioners to be economical. There are concerns about contracts and professional development, but new dynamics are in play. The arguments include families taking summer vacations and high schoolers who take summer jobs. 

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While tradition-bound arguments still exist as reasons to defend the agrarian schedule, not everyone agrees. There are many families who worry about how to find, and pay for, childcare during those three months off, as many families no longer have a parent at home to supervise those “idyllic days." There are also concerns about childhood hunger, which was a large concern during the pandemic.

There are academic concerns about how far children may have lagged this year due to the hurriedly implemented on-line education. Clearly a COVID driven educational decision, this was supported by teachers and parents who were left with no choice but to dive in. However, that may not have been “best” for students, for educating them or supporting their families.

It is time to be creative, to be cutting edge, for our students!  Perhaps one schedule for the entire county, so that parents who work in one district, have students in another district and a non-custodial parent in another, will have less stress — with their students and with their employers.

Perhaps, a four-day school week, with Friday for cleaning, would work. Perhaps children in York, in the commonwealth, in the United States can be expected to learn, and to retain that knowledge better, when the schedule does not include three months off.

As some members of the legislature blindly push for businesses to simply “re-open to save lives,” it is also time for them to realize that they will need to put money into addressing the multi-faceted solutions that will be needed to make “re-open” happen, including, at the very least, disinfectants, more educators, Plexiglass fixtures and a different approach to funding education.

Maybe year- round education will work to help save the education of our children, as well as our economy.

— Judith Higgins has a Doctor of Education degree.