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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Proposed bill sparks debate between school and travel industry

The News-Herald education reporters talked to some area superintendents and the travel industry for a story in Tuesday's edition about a shorten school year.
The story sparked a debate that didn't stop after the article went in print.
The public, educators and those in the tourism industry continued to weigh in about the issue.
Many educators are opposed to the bill and seem to wonder why the tourism industry would be involved in the education decision.
The proposed House Bill 191 prohibits school districts from opening instruction earlier than Labor Day and closing later than Memorial Day.
In effect, students would have a longer summer break, however, the districts would have to rearrange their calendars to fit the new instructional hours between those two holidays.
Some benefits to the schools would be more flexibility as the recently introduced bill states each district can develop its own attendance schedule.
The school year stands at 182 days. The proposed bill for the 2012-13 school year would change the requirement from days into instructional hours.
The bill mandates at least 960 hours of instructional time for first through sixth grades and all-day kindergarten. Students would have 1,050 hours of instructional time for grades seven through 12. That represents an increase of 50 hours in the school year.
However, no calamity days would be included within the new proposal in which districts would be responsible to make up those days as they see fit.
Mentor Schools Superintendent Jacqueline Hoynes said she sees some positive and negative points in the proposed House Bill 191.
"On the plus side, we like the potential it offers to work more collaboratively with non-public schools on transportation schedules," she said. "On the other hand, the limitations the bill would set regarding new beginning and ending dates for the school year can hinder the collaborative process we currently have in place for our staff, who help set the calendar each year."
She added, "Further we do not believe lengthening summer break would be in the best interest of students and the instructional process."
Willoughby-Eastlake Schools Superintendent Keith Miller, who will be retiring at the end of the month, but still heavily involved in the district, agrees.
He said he's opposed to the bill and gave more thoughts after further reading in the proposal.
"The authors of this bill, Reps. Hayes and B. Patmon, must be listening to the Ohio Tourism lobby, not educators," Miller wrote in an e-mail,  "Research shows that when children are out of school for three months they experience what is referred to as "summer learning loss" which can mean losing up to a month's progress in math skills and nearly three in reading comprehension for children from low-income backgrounds."
He noted, " This bill makes summer vacation even longer than it is now.
Supporters of the bill such as Pioneer Waterland and Dry Fun Park in Chardon sent an e-mailed letter and said they plan to send it to all members in the Ohio House of Representatives and Ohio Senate.
"Business such as ours would like a mandate that schools do not start until after Labor Day," Pioneer Waterland President Al Vitantonio wrote.
Vitantonio cited reasons for supporting the bill such as shorter summer vacations times limit time teachers have to update skills; heat-related concerns on practice fields and playgrounds;  a negative impact on adequate progress reports because parents have no time to study it or pose questions to administrators.
Some reasons would be to allow students to work in the summer, which typically are seasonal or temporary positions that many tourism businesses offer.
"The current school year is ruining the tourism and seasonal businesses in Ohio," he wrote. "There are whole towns and cities dependent on the tourist season to survive."
He added, there would be an increase in revenue in overall tourism business, thus generating more revenue for the state, countries, cities and other businesses."
The public also weighed in the situation as the story received more than 50 comments since it was posted on www.news-herald.com.
Many were opposed to the shorter school year because they thought it would affect education.
One person responded, " I am against a school year that runs from Labor Day to Memorial Day. I think that schools should be year round, with small breaks between each marking period. Children lose way too much information over the long summer break."
That person added, "One downfall I do see with year round school is the lack of air conditioning in many buildings. It is quite a challenge to capture the attention of students in extreme temperatures."
Some agreed with the proposed bill and offered solutions that the school year could be run between the two holidays by taking days away from breaks such as winter or spring. 


Angela Gartner
AGartner@News-Herald.com

1 Comments:

Anonymous Patti Bauer said...

Though I agree that many children lose math and reading skills over school breaks...some even during a short breaks like Winter or Spring..In my experience, and I have worked in education in Ohio in the past, most kids are not at all focused on "learning" until Labor Day anyway, I hardly think that extra week or two of summer vacation would make that significant of a difference...and by Memorial Day, the teachers and students are so "DONE" that not a whole lot of instruction other than reviewing is taking place anyway...I feel that aside the the Tourism Industry, the Labor Day to Memorial Day school year could be the most advantages for everyone..It will obviously cut down on "Party" days in classrooms and force optimal instruction to take place during the specified days..I think that school staff are more opposed to it because three and four day breaks in the schedule are something that the educators have looked forward to. But we need to keep in mind that even though I fully support educators contract bargaining rights, I do feel that there can be some give and take regarding the added hours (I think it was mentioned to be 50hrs. above).

July 13, 2011 at 12:41 PM 

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