Students still need to spend time in school buildings!

Fairfax Superintendent Jack D. Dale will lead the school board members in a discussion about the future of education at a meeting this Friday. He says:

So, do you think we should design a new educational model? Perhaps a model based on creating… perhaps without the constraints of time, particularly time in a brick building… perhaps available 24/7/365 … perhaps one where technology can replace the routine, static portions of our current education system and where advanced thinking, and team learning becomes the purpose for the ‘public’ portion of our education system. (Or, perhaps this still is too constrained …. after all I am a digital immigrant!)

I think we need to challenge ourselves to design a new system and design it at perhaps 70% – 80% of the cost of the current system. (I think resource constraints will continue to be a major issue for us for decades to come. I also look at the current outsourcing that is occurring, and the substantially lower costs for that outsourcing!)

Students still need time inside a brick building! In fact, they could use MORE time, not less time, in the building (and on the playground).  Latchkey children can cope on their own for a certain amount of time, but too much time alone, even with computers, books, etc., is not good for these students, particularity elementary school students. With all the excitement about technology and advances in curriculum, let’s not forget that  many children in Fairfax County spend  a certain number of hours home alone or with siblings without the benefit of direct adult supervision.This is particularly true on Monday afternoons. While Dr. Dale is challenging himself and others to design a new system, let’s hope this design includes five full days in school each week for all students.

In addition to considering the time some children spend alone, we need to consider the additional costs parents would have if they needed to pay for additional daycare or if they needed to reduce their work hours.  I applaud Dr. Dale’s interest in cutting costs, but these savings should come within the school day for students, not by shortening the time students have in school.

New ways of arranging responsibilities within the school day could include different types of outsourcing, as Dr. Dale suggests. For example, some school districts are using outside companies to provide recess monitors. Perhaps Fairfax County could consider this option.

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