As we progress though the first few weeks of summer, I am beginning to see some additional benefits to the district’s use of Blizzard Bags this past year. Given that the students were done with school on June 14, the extra week of time has allowed our maintenance and custodial staff additional time to work on some improvement projects as well as the regular deep cleaning and maintenance. More importantly however is the student response to summer ‘school’ that is usually little better than acceptance since on a normal year this programming starts so soon after the regular school year ends. This year summer programming began on July 5 but this was three weeks after school ended and the students appeared to be ready to participate and enjoyed the structure and activities more than on a usual year. Additionally this means that this programming will end early enough for the students to enjoy a significant amount of time in late summer before returning to school.
This of course may be the opposite for students not participating in summer programming for whom the summer is now a week longer than it would have been without Blizzard Bags. We all know some students for which boredom sets in early during their summer vacation unless someone is scheduling some activities for them on a regular basis. In speaking with several students over the past weeks I’ve heard a common refrain that they didn’t like the work given on Blizzard Bag days but the payoff in getting out early (especially those who had friends that were still in school two weeks after Gateway students were done) was worth the effort.
I do know that despite getting out early, our staff that work throughout the summer will still find time Is limited to complete all of their tasks before staff and students return in late August. What many of us still think of as the ‘traditional’ school year that ran from after Labor Day to late June seems to be less and less prevalent given today’s student needs. There is even much discussion on changing the time for school with a later start for middle/high school students being advocated for in many locations. With more online educational opportunities, more blended learning, and more education being individualized for students it’s somewhat surprising that more schools haven’t moved to a calendar and school day more reflective of current student needs and based more fully on research findings rather than tradition, i.e., changed school day, school week, and even school year. You can find some of these changes throughout the country such as a 4-day week, year-round schooling, and changing the school day to reflect societal changes. I don’t see such significant changes occurring at the state or federal level, rather these are happening mostly at the individual school level based upon local needs and the ability to change within the confines of state requirements when necessary to meet identified local parameters. I’m sure that as education and technology continue to change to meet the ever more diverse needs of students, the pressure to modify the traditional standards will increase and we’ll see more innovative and purposely planned schedules become more commonplace.
I also believe this change in education is inevitable over time just as we’ve seen the work place change so dramatically over the last 25 years to reflect the changing economy and the globalization of society. Those who can adapt in a positive manner to these changes become the new success stories while many who resist changing become less important or even obsolete. I recognize that this may also reflect on the proposed changes to town financial governance as outlined by the DOR as these ideas are so different than what we’ve historically enjoyed for centuries in our little towns operated under the auspices of local town meetings, volunteer service, and commitment to the idea of individuality. In the end, whether changes come about or not, the choice remains with the individual who gets to weigh all of the options and to make decisions they feel is in their best interest.