Maybe late start should be permanent

Monday, August 15, 2005

Yes, we know what the calendar says. It's Aug. 15, with more than a month of summer remaining. Why, then, are our thoughts shifting to fall activities?

It's because of the approach of school. With high school sports practice sessions beginning today, and school starting in many locations next week, young people and parents find themselves leaving summer activities behind and gearing up for the busy school days to come.

Which side are you on? Do you like the school term to be as it has been in recent years, starting in mid to late August and ending in early to mid May? Or, do you prefer it as it was in the old days, when the week after Labor Day was the traditional starting date for the school term, and Memorial Day was the traditional ending date?

McCook Public Schools will get a chance to compare this year due to a week-later starting date for the 2005-06 school term. Classes were scheduled to start Aug. 22, but will be held off until Aug. 29 to allow more time for construction on the McCook Elementary building project at the North Ward site.

The reaction so far? "Those I've talked to like it," says Jerry Smith, the principal at McCook High School. Especially, those favoring a later start for school like it that they are a week closer to cool weather. Without air conditioning, students and teachers often face a series of sweltering days in mid to late August, while that is less of a factor with a later start for school.

To compensate for the week later start, the McCook schools will shave a few days off the Christmas vacation, and limit the Thanksgiving vacation to Thursday and Friday, instead of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday as was previously planned.

The shorter holiday breaks seem to be okay, too, as too many days away from school can interrupt the study and activity flow for students.

This year's later start for school was not planned in advance, but it will provide a good opportunity to look at the pros and cons of a later starting date. If starting a week later works well for the 2005-06 school term, perhaps the McCook school board and administration should consider a later start for school in 2006-07 and the years beyond.

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