Less classroom time won’t help students

By William Ward: Guest Columnist

On April 26, the school board passed a resolution to release grade-school students from class, every Wednesday afternoon between 12:45 p.m. and 1 p.m. This applies to elementary school students only. The intended purpose of the release is to give teachers the time to pursue professional development and further comply with the “No Child Left Behind Act.”

I suppose I’m not a very good judge of people, because I thought working parents would cry foul. I was obviously mistaken. In fact, it appears that with the exception of me and Tony Eisenbraun (a parent quoted in the May 5 CNJ article that announced the decision), this issue is quickly passing without comment.

Well, put me down in the “crying foul” column, because I absolutely oppose this decision and want to raise some very serious parental concerns.

I have great respect for our professional teachers. I fully appreciate that a teacher’s job is a tremendous undertaking that is only complicated by constant micromanagement from Washington, D.C.

But less class time for students isn’t the answer.

I regret that teachers have to take work home. Other working parents take work home as well. Students are already released from class multiple times per year for regular teacher work days and parent-teacher conference days, and now we’re going to add Wednesday afternoons on top of it.

We’re told this is for professional development of teachers.

First of all, “professional development” is an extremely broad term. Exactly what encompasses “professional development?” Will this be paper-grading time; lesson-planning time; parent-teacher conference time; or something else?

Interim Superintendent G.C. Ross said parents have been complaining that teachers are out of the classroom too much for instructional leave. Do we not employ substitute teachers to carry on the educational process any longer? Exactly how much meaningful instructional time can teachers accomplish in two hours on Wednesday afternoons, and why does teacher-education time suddenly trump student-education time? Why can’t this training be conducted after school?

Ross thinks the program makes sense. That depends on which side of the issue you find yourself. For working parents, it makes no sense at all. In fact, it creates a tremendous burden.

Elementary students are our youngest children, who cannot safely be left unattended at home alone. Working parents cannot just skip work on Wednesday afternoons to go home. Junior high and high school students will still be in class, so older siblings and babysitter-age students will also not be available for supervision.

So what are working parents to do? Television and video games behind locked doors is not an acceptable substitute for much-needed classroom time.

Ross said many elementary schools will offer latch-key programs. Will someone please explain to me how even more latch-key time — in lieu of lost learning time — is a good thing for our children?

If teachers will be busy with “professional development,” who will be administering these latch-key programs? And if we’ve got to create a new school program to make this work, why can’t we just stay in class?

Ross also said other schools will rely on buses to shuttle students home. Have they taken into consideration how many of those young children will potentially be going to an empty home alone?

I suppose I missed the announcement informing us that this issue was going to be on the school board agenda at the April 26 meeting, and I find it curious that it took until May 5 for it to hit the news.

I suppose we parents are remiss for not cramming into each and every school board meeting to ensure that these sorts of nasty surprises aren’t passed in absence of our objections, but we elect these people because we trust them to keep the best interest of our children in the forefront of their minds.

In my opinion, they sure missed the mark on this issue, and it needs to be reconsidered.

William Ward is a Clovis resident. Contact him at: wardcnj@hotmail.com