What Schools Owe The Community

Recently, a local news station shared this article on their Facebook page. https://www.simplemost.com/school-schedules-make-working-parents-suffer/?partner=scripps&partner-sub=KMGH&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=scripps&utm_content=KMGH

The headline is “Hey, We Work Until 5—So Why Does School Still Get Out At 3?” The conclusion of the article notes a “win-win” for everyone.

As you might imagine, there were opinions. Lots of them.

However, what stood out the most to those of us involved in our schools was that the writer seemed to have no clue how schools actually function.

Many people in the community want schools to be and do everything for everyone. Not only do we need to educate children,  we have the social issues we must serve – hunger, homelessness, poverty, mental health, etc. We know kids don’t function well and they could care less about tests and grades when they haven’t eaten or are worried about where they are sleeping at night. This is taken a step further with outside organizations such as Red Rocks providing daycares in school buildings to accommodate working parents, allowing buildings to be used for clubs or scout meetings, as well as things like adding nursing stations or dental services for students and sometimes families into our buildings. School buildings are often used by the community as polling places, precinct meeting locations, craft fairs, emergency shelters, and even church services. Our schools have been particularly accommodating in servicing community needs but this article seems to call for staff as the accommodation for convenience.

The larger issue may be that our community really doesn’t see what goes on in our schools. We’ve said for years that more than 70% of our community isn’t attached to our schools in any way. Parents who are not extremely involved and other community members do not see teachers and staff arriving at the school an hour or more before their official “contract time” and they may not be aware that student start and end times and staff start and end times are not the same.

They may not be aware of the amount of planning, grading, and meetings required of staff beyond the hours our children are in school.

We don’t know many people who work 9-5, that would be skipping lunch break and, if those are the required hours, illegal for employers to enforce upon hourly employees. At a minimum, 8:30-5 would be needed for full time employees working a 40 hour work week. Obviously, salaried employees could vary in accordance with state statutes for HR. Some people work 7-4 and others work night shifts. How on earth could schools, especially those that are funded at $2800 below the national average, meet the needs of every work schedule?

Insert conversations here about developmental appropriateness of young children being at school for 10 hours a day once we also add commutes. Who would be responsible then for the daycare time beyond school hours? Who must hire and pay for those positions, assuming staff may also have their own children and lives and may not be interested in increased hours or will taxpayers also fund this daycare time at an overtime rate for those willing to do the job?

Or did the writer intend for staff to do this additional work for free?

Beyond after school activities and sports, which would then be held even later due to the new “daycare role,” some students have jobs after school and need them for survival of their families. Also consider that just because school may end for students at 3pm, it doesn’t mean that 100% of parents pick their children up on time. Every school office generally has a collection of students awaiting pick up well after school has been dismissed for the day. This issue would not likely go away if school ends at 4pm, 5pm, or 6pm.

We, as a society, seem to have lots of “solutions” for schools to be everything that we want and need as a convenience. However, what schools need to serve students, which is their actual function and intention, is community collaboration.

Ultimately, community is needed to solve the problems of poverty, hunger, homelessness, and mental health access.  In Colorado, statute requires the community to run campaigns to support school funding, not allowing the school district to advocate for or against anything.

As you ponder this topic, think about the increased staff and hours that would be required of anyone working in education.

If the purpose of school is to educate children and serve them in the best way possible, what does that even have to do with the hours of anyone’s employer?

Ultimately, schools have proven themselves to be a good partner to the community with regard to use of buildings and staff to clean up after community uses. Perhaps the community owes a little more to our schools and staff in return?

What are your thoughts?