Why School Should Never Start Before Labor Day

Jenny Erikson Say What!?
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Remember when school used to start the Tuesday after Labor Day? It still does in a lot of places, but many districts are pushing their start dates further into August. Something about more training days for standardized testing and longer holiday breaks.

It might not seem like that big of a deal, but there’s one teensy little problem -- especially for schools in lower-income areas. It’s hot out there.

School supplies should not have to include fans and wet towels along with the 27 boxes of tissues and 48 sharpened number 2 pencils that it seems every parent is required to provide these days, but that’s exactly what’s happening in the Midwest. As temperatures soar and the sun beats down on brick buildings with few windows, students are too busy struggling to keep cool to, you know, actually learn things.

Schools in Fargo and Minneapolis decided it was too hot to even bother, and gave students the day off. They called it a “heat day,” which is similar to a “snow day,” but likely with sprinklers and popsicles instead of snowballs and hot cocoa.

Why not just turn on the AC and let the kids chill in the classrooms? As Superintendent Sheila Greenwood of Bement Community Unit School District put it, “Thinking about air conditioning -- we can’t even afford new textbooks.”

In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emnuel started schools a week earlier in August as part of a plan to improve education in the nation’s third-largest school district, but apparently forgot to budget for the air conditioning. "The last estimate was over a billion dollars," said Becky Carroll, a spokeswoman for Chicago's district of 700 schools. "Those aren't dollars we have."

Whoops.

Does it seem counterproductive to anyone else to start school earlier so the kids can learn more, when all they’re doing is trying not to melt? Teachers are reporting lethargy across the board, and even some cases of bloody noses and fainting spells. Not exactly what you would call a learning environment.

Starting school early might work in a lot of places -- but not where classroom temperatures reach the mid-90s. Give the poor kids back their summer.

What do you think about schools starting before Labor Day?


Image via David Schott/Flickr

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