Thursday, August 12, 2010

Won't You Be My Neighbor

The school district I grew up in is currently facing a crisis...

Back in 2003 or so, the State of Arkansas decided that elementary school teachers should be provided with planning time during the school day. (you can find the law here on page 3) Now, that sounds great, right (so now teachers aren't complaining about having to prep for their classes on their own time... or... something like that. I really don't know why they decided this. It doesn't make any sense to me).

Well, in order to compensate for this, the Pulaski County Special School District decided to start elementary schools 40 minutes earlier (which also doesn't make any sense... because younger children actually need more sleep than older kids). Their argument? We don't have enough buses to run separate buses for the elementary schools and the secondary schools, so we have to adjust all the bell schedules so we can still use the same buses.

Well, what they didn't realize was that if a bus is dropping elementary students off at 7:00am, little 5 and 6 year olds will be getting on the bus at 6-6:15am. Yeah. 6:00AM. Which means, if you've got a 5 year old who needs to get ready for school, chances are you're going to need to wake him/her up around 5:00AM to get him/her dressed, fed, and off to the bus stop.

Five o'clock in the morning? For a 5 and 6 year old? Are they serious?


And they have also realized how stupid they've been (they are currently "discussing the situation." But they don't have a solution yet, and school starts in a week.

Well, good luck to them.

Now you may ask "Why are they busing elementary students in the first place?"

Good question, to which I will respond with two words:

Magnet Schools

And now I will refer you to this article at Blue Oregon, written in 2005, but very very "on" for today's issue in the Pulaski County Special School District.

In Defense of Neighborhood Schools by Wendy Radmacher-Willis

What do you think about neighborhood schools? At the very least for elementary students. Should we be more focused on things like math, the arts, science, technology, dance, languages, etc? Or more focused on the values, relationship skills, and other life skills our children will learn by growing up in a strong community?


  1. Ohhh... I don't know where to begin. Maybe with, although every parent must think their child(ren) is perfect in every way, not everyone is, or can be, stellar-brilliant. And that is okay. While all of us should strive for improvement, we can stretch ourselves without throwing our backs out. Yeah. So average is okay. And sometimes, kids need to learn, oh, I don't know--how about social skills in the early grades? Rather than being so focused on (insert magnet emphasis here), and thinking they are oh so special that it's just setting them up for a harsh wake up call later on. And even for "gifted" children, I think it is a good thing sometimes to learn how to go with the flow. In my (neighborhood) elementary school, starting by about third or fourth grade, there were divisions of areas like reading and math into high/low/average (and wasn't a huge deal of, oh, I'm was more a discreet placement of you have Mrs. So and so for math, and Mrs. Whoever for reading), so that children could be taught to their abilities. So maybe for older grades, magnet schools would be great. But, for kindergartners...maybe better if they're not on the bus at six am. (Which, incidentally, would make bedtime what? 6 pm? Prolly not gonna happen. Which would create other problems. Like with those socio-emotional skills they need to be learning.)

  2. Maybe I have a little different view on this...having taught in the elementary schools. I can only say that I really LOVED having that extra 30 minutes of prep time during the day. There really is only so much that you can get prepped at the beginning, middle (during your lunch hour--which I almost always used for prep anyway) and after school... Sometimes you need that 30 minutes to get together a painting project or whatever it is (nearly impossible with 1st graders in the room since they always want to know what you're doing :) ). Also, the kids LOVED it because in our district that was the time they would have music, P.E., computers, etc... I thought it was a win/win situation.

    As far as bussing goes, I'm really not a fan of bussing...never having rode the school bus myself. In California you had to pay to ride the school bus (guess that's how they solved it) or your parents could drive you. Houses are more spread out there so it wasn't really feasible to walk to school. My mom would always drive us and I loved it. I thought it was a great way for her to have that interaction with us before school and it was nice as a kid to not have to deal with the bus scene. Jeremy rode the school bus and wasn't really a fan... I just think there are too many "negative" influences on a school bus--lots of peer pressure and little to no supervision.

    I like the idea of neighborhood schools (but that means you have to have homes not too spread out...) where kids can walk or bike to school, but I don't think it could work in every community. I worked at a "neighborhood" school and the kids loved walking, biking, etc... I really loved all the aspects of it!

    Anyway, there you go for a former teacher's perspective :)

  3. Thanks for your comments, guy! :)

    @Amy - I think having prep time is a given for teachers. You can't not pay them for the time they prep. When the teachers have their prep time is really a matter of personal (or I guess school district) preference.

    My issue is with the lack of neighborhood schools. Sure they aren't feasible in a place where the homes are more spread out. But I live in a community that has a population of over 15,000 and covers a very small area (about 3 miles along a highway, and about 1 mile on either side of that highway - that's about 15,000 people in 6 square miles - not to mention the several small neighboring towns that our city has annexed). There is only one elementary school in the whole city. Half of the children are bussed out to other elementary schools in other parts of the metropolitan area. And that's because Arkansas (or at least the Little Rock area) promotes "school choice." Or, in other worse, "You can go to whatever school you want wherever you want, and the state will pay to bus your child there." Which in my opinion is ridiculous.

    But then, there's a lot about the Arkansas public education system that bugs me to death.

    Thanks again for all your comments! I'm glad people read my blog :D

  4. Sorry, I just noticed you posted this blog. This comment is more a response to your last comment. I think it is great that kids can choose what school they want to go to. But I don't think it is anybody else' responsibility to get them to that school. I know this opens a can of worms about how all the kids who have a crummy neighborhood school but can't feasibly transport themselves to another school have pulled the short stick. Maybe my philosophy works better for universities and not for elementary school. My mother used to get so irritated with the high school counselors who said that you could go to any university you wanted to. That ticked her off because you CAN'T go to any university you want to. You can go to the university you can AFFORD. Now I read articles and hear conversations about the poor college students who are in debt up to their eyeballs from student loans and have no way to pay them off. Everyone's trying to blame it on somebody - like tuition's office, or the banks. But what about the students are bought something they couldn't afford just thinking life was going to take care of their problems for them. Four years is a long time for that college loan to just disappear right? Anyway, i get frustrated with people who "deserve" things and then do unreasonable things to get them, and then blame it on someone else when the error of their ways is revealed. What does this have to do with neighborhood schools and busing?... I think life isn't fair and it is supposed to be that way. I also think, and am very grateful for, those wonderful people who realize life isn't fair and some kids just wont have every thing the rich kids on the other side of town have, but instead of trying make life fair, they just help out those kids on the wrong side of town by volunteering, or donating or whatever. this, of course, is an entirely NEW issue and I could go on and on but I just realized I've been ranting for the last few hundred words and it's probably time for me to sign off. Thanks for the post. Good things to think about.