The financial constraints for our schools are almost unimaginable at times, when you look at state and federal expectations for achievement. To offer some programs, others must be scaled back, or in some extreme cases, have been completely eliminated.
In talking with friends from Minnesota recently, they were grumbling about the cost of the "free" public school education, after they'd registered their son Adam for his freshman year in high school. Adam was a pretty good football player in junior high, so it was no surprise he wanted to play in high school. His folks received a surprise when they learned the fee for participation in football was $350 for the season not for insurance or towels. That was what the school district charged each player to use a helmet, pads and uniform and to help offset costs for transportation, officials, etc. for the season.
Adam is doing well in freshmen ball so far, "he carried the ball a couple times and didn't trip," according to his Dad who still shakes his head at the registration bill which amounted to somewhere in the neighborhood of $525 for the lone little freshman.
Granted, every school has to charge fees for some things that cannot be covered by traditional funding, such as PE towels, book rental, and a new charge that is slowly coming into many districts, an advanced technology fee for student access to laptop computers. In many districts, outside groups, such as booster clubs for athletics and fine arts, try to help the families of youths out with some of those costs.
Those booster clubs run concession stands, hold benefit suppers and even sit in dunk tanks to help the kids.
On another track, every so often you hear of a proposal floating around in the educational sector regarding Iowa school districts being able to meet the state-required 180 days of education guidelines, and having all 180 of those days to be of full educational value. One idea being kicked around involves lengthening the school day and basing Iowa's guidelines on total number of hours of educational contact, rather than a number of days of contact.
I read recently that a school district in South Dakota adopted a four-day week and is hopeful it will lead to better academic performance. In the Irene-Wakonda High School, the class day features 10 more minutes to a period and an additional 30 minutes to each school day but the tradeoff is no classes on Fridays.
The no-class on Friday concept has two benefits; students have more time for extracurricular groups, such as sports, band, choir and drama. And every other Friday, teachers are in their classrooms, being available to students who want extra help.
The idea of a four-day school week has been discussed many times before in Iowa, but the idea faces conflicts with the 180 day requirement, in that a district with a four-day week would have to extend its' school year out to meet the requirement.
Taking the idea further, the idea of 12-month schooling has also been floated, with students attending classes for three tri-mesters each year, lasting three months each. A month off would be followed by another tri-mester and another month off, giving students three months off each year, as they do now, but on a different time frame.
There are places in the nation where students do attend school the year 'round, with vacation breaks for student and teachers, and their programs are being examined to see if a new format could be developed around the country.
But for now, the school bells ring each day and our youth are in the classroom, learning more about this ever-changing world, preparing for an exciting future that no one can predict. Even though we in the public are not teachers in the classroom sense of the world, we all still can play a role in the future of our youth.
Share your life experiences take interest in what our youth do. Support their endeavors in academics and extra-curricular offerings. Go to a concert, a ball game, or go to an Open House and see what our youth are learning and how they are being taught.
Just because you might not fit in one of those little desks doesn't mean you can't learn something new from a kid.