Opinion: State study of school calendars ignores educators

Megan Mayfield has taught for 15 years in Cherokee County. In this guest column, Mayfield questions why a Senate study committee on school calendars excluded classroom educators and why the committee believes the state should set parameters on when districts should break for the summer.

In recommendations released two weeks ago, the committee, made up largely of lawmakers and business and tourism interests, said Georgia schools should break for the summer around June 1 and resume no earlier than seven to 10 days before Labor Day.

The majority of Georgia's 181 school districts now conclude around Memorial Day and resume the first or second week of August. Many members of the study committee and tourism leaders endorsed the three-month summers of their youth over the nine-week breaks that many students have now.

A chief reason: A longer summer helps Georgia’s tourism industry, which relies on vacationing families for revenue and high school students for staffing.

Local districts oppose state mandates on when they can start and finish classes. Cherokee Schools surveyed its parents and staff who expressed an overwhelming preference to keep the district's current school calendar and local control of it.

Mayfield received her undergraduate degree from Auburn University and her master’s degree from Kennesaw State University. She represented her school as the 2017-2018 Teacher of the Year. Along with her co-teacher, Megan presents to educators around the state about the value of the coteaching model with English Language Learners.

By Megan Mayfield

Riddle me this…a committee about the school calendar (education) is composed of four Senators, one state Department of Education representative, and “several” representatives from travel and tourism businesses. The committee had 11 members. Hmmm…a committee regarding education and only one person qualified to discuss what’s best for kids.

Oh, silly me…I thought when we make decisions about schools, we make those decisions with children in mind. Sometimes it’s hard to put ourselves in another’s shoes, but please consider the following:

∙Consider the hardworking parent who struggles with reading as an adult. Not every child in this state (and spoiler alert, your community!) has educated parents. While you see the value in education and can help your child during their time off, some parents cannot. Not because they don’t want to, but because they don’t have the time and/or resources to make it happen.

∙Consider the parent who doesn’t speak English and cannot sit and read with her child throughout the summer.

∙Consider the English learner who has made tremendous gains during the school year in their English proficiency, but who will spend the entire summer speaking in their native tongue.

∙Consider the child who goes home and deals with trauma on a daily or weekly basis. For this child, school is their safe place and their escape.

∙Consider the many kids who return from their summer break and have had what we call the “summer slide”, and they’re behind where they were at the end of the previous year. Summer reading loss is a real thing.

It’s so easy to think it’s no big deal because it doesn’t affect our own child in an academic way, but we have to think about all kids and what’s best for them too.

Local school districts should have local control to make decisions for their community. If the community supports a balanced calendar and feels that it serves their kids best, then they should have a balanced calendar.

A group of politicians and business owners that haven’t stepped into a classroom since they graduated shouldn’t be making these decisions about our kids and our communities. We need to stand up for what’s best for kids and not what’s going to increase tax revenue in our state.