The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Was final school day really needed?
BY DONNIE JOHNSTON
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
I HAD A GOOD discussion the other day with a friend who is a school administrator.
Predictably, there were some things we agreed on and others we didn’t.
The conversation began when I passed along my concerns and those of at least a dozen other people I had talked with about the final day of school in his division.
The last day was on a Monday and graduation had taken place the previous weekend. And it was only a half day.
In the eyes of those who had called and prodded me to write a column about the subject, it was a sheer waste of taxpayer dollars to hold a half day of school on a Monday after the school year was essentially over.
Dozens of buses burning $3.50-a-gallon diesel fuel had to be driven to pick up and deliver students on a day when essentially nothing educational would be accomplished.
The school cafeteria had to be put into operation to feed the kids before they left, which cut class time even more.
And they had to cool the building for another day, instead of reducing the air-conditioning as they usually do when school is out.
My friend, who probably had no say in whether to hold the last school day on Monday, defended the division’s decision. He reminded me that, according to state law, schools must be in session 180 days.
But I reminded him that it is either 180 days or 990 hours and I was sure the division had enough “bank time” to more than compensate for the one day of classes the schools missed during the year.
He did not dispute that.
Other systems use “bank time” to make up lost days and if there ever was an occasion when this practice was appropriate, this was it.
To think that anything would be accomplished on a Monday—especially a half day—after graduation had already occurred is ridiculous. After all, grades are already in and even the perfect-attendance certificates have been handed out.
So what’s the point? The division spends all that money just to say it went the 180th day? No wonder taxpayers complain about schools wasting money.
While we never agreed on the Monday classes, my friend and I did agree on several other aspects of education during our discussion.
We both were of the mind that the vast majority of parents today don’t care what their kids learn, only that they get good grades.
We also agreed that American students—at least most of them—have little appreciation for the educational opportunities afforded them. While getting a good education is a privilege in many countries, it is taken for granted in the United States.
That fact becomes evident when children whose parents immigrated from India and Pakistan win the national spelling and geography bees.
My friend and I agreed that more high school students should be funneled into vocational curricula and less emphasis should be placed on everyone going to college. And we agreed that college costs are way out of control and that kids who graduate with meaningless degrees and $100,000 in student loan debt are in deep trouble.
Finally, I told him that I thought exams at the end of the school year were a waste of time.
“You need to give exams 10 years after the kids graduate,” I said. “Passing exams at the end of the semester or year only proves that the students can memorize. Passing them 10 years down the road proves they really learned something.”
My friend’s only response was that he was sure he couldn’t pass a high school biology exam today.
“Then what was the point?” I asked.
That was the end of the discussion.
And it was a good one.