Monday, April 23, 2012

School Daze

I find the news out of Fond du Lac that the school district there is short on the minimum number of days for this school year rather disturbing.  Fondy Schools werent just one day short--or even two days short--but three whole days short of the 180 minimum for classroom instruction.  And that is not due to snow days or power outages or norovirus outbreaks.  When someone put together the calendar for approval last year, they just didn't schedule enough days.

The first thing that is disturbing here is that an education official is the one that messed up counting to 180.  Apparently, there were days when elementary, middle and high schools had different days off--and administrators thought they could count those days as one contact day for all students.  One would think you could simplify everything by having all students off on the same days.

Another disturbing factor is that the calendar would have stayed the way it was if not for a complaint filed with the Department of Public Instruction.  No one on the Fond du Lac school board complained, no principals said "I think we're a little short on days for the kids here."  It was an anonymous parent (we think) that contacted the state to say "I'd like my kids to actually be in class the absolute minimum number of days required by law.  Thank you."

So now the district is scrambling to actually meet that minimum standard.  They are applying for a waiver to the 180-day requirement.  It wants to count two professional development days for teachers as "class days"--even though kids weren't actually in class.  And they want to add one day to the end of the school year.  Well, not actually a full day--but actually about 3 and a half hours to another day--which again meets the minimum definition of a "school day" under state law.  At least they aren't going the route the Oshkosh School District went a few years ago after it blew through all of its snow days and chose to add a couple of minutes to each class day in order to again meet the minimum number of hours that kids had to be in school each year.

And the most disturbing thing about this is that at tonight's public hearing on the waiver request, there will be parents there complaining about the addition of that extra half-day at the end of the calendar.  They will say they planned family vacations starting that day.  Or the kids leave for band camp or football camp or they start a summer music program that day.  (Don't laugh--that happened here in Oshkosh when this district looked to add days to the calendar in the year mentioned before).  I guess we shouldn't expect school district officials to be worried about kids being in class as much as possible--if parents don't care either.

The good news is that Act Ten should make creating a school calendar easier next year.  WEAC has given up on its two-day union convention every October because they can no longer strong-arm districts into giving teachers those days off so they can (NOT) attend.  There's two more days of actual learning--if we choose to actually use them.

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