Proposed school calendar would be ill-suited

Published 3:36 pm Saturday, April 26, 2014

Guest Column, by Tom Jones

I am proud of the education my two second-grade children are getting at Lakeview School. I am also very proud of the fact that they are the fourth generation of my family to attend public schools in Albert Lea and the sixth generation to call Albert Lea home.

Tom Jones

Tom Jones

As a businessman in our community, when I first heard about the proposed balanced school year, a lot of questions came up that I would like to share concerning the effects that this school schedule could have on our entire community.

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As taxpayers we are putting a lot of money each year in the effort to clean our beautiful lakes for increased recreational activities. With the kids back in school in early August, the lakes will probably be pretty quiet. Our downtown business owners and we as homeowners were asked last year to put a major contribution into the beautification of our downtown area. A new dock is about to be put in the lake at Fountain Lake Park so that boaters can dock and eat and shop in downtown Albert Lea. With the kids back to school early, I can’t see this being a major way to increase traffic. Many people have dreams to see a big amusement park at the old Farmland Food site. Would someone want to potentially invest in this in our community with school being in session early in August?

Will the major retailers in our local papers, radio and television invest significant dollars to promote back-to-school sales a month earlier than they set their promotional schedules for?

August brings many educational opportunities to the children and families of our town. By sending them back to school early, will things such as Family Y camps, Good Earth Village camps, swimming lessons and swimming at the pool, Bayside Ski Club shows, family trips to the Mower, Steele and Minnesota State fairs, youth soccer at the new Edgewater Park soccer complex being planned, youth baseball, summer hockey camps, golf at our local courses, Freeborn County Relay for Life, Big Island Bar-B-Que, Wind Down Wednesdays and church Bible schools become a thing of the past?

With the proposed schedule having school starting right after the fair, many families would be getting their children to bed earlier that week, which I think would affect attendance at the fair. The fair also hires numerous teachers in our district during that week.

Being involved in the local sports scene, I’m wondering how two-a-day practices would be accomplished with school starting in early August. In the spring, any athletes or teams and their coaches making it to the state tournaments would be going into early June, thus shortening their summer to pretty much a six-week break. Coaches can now work with their varsity athletes in June and July. For the parents of these athletes, early August would be the only time to have a summer vacation.

With the standardized testing for students done in April, why would we want to have a three-week break in the time prior to this? What about our wonderful teachers who want to work on gaining their master’s degree during the summer months?

How about the kids who rely on working a summer job to help pay for college? The average public school cost for tuition and fees for a four-year state school degree in Minnesota is around $7,500 per year and around $35,000-$45,000 for a private college. What about the employers in our town that rely on high school kids to help with their increased traffic over the three summer months?

To all the families that have working schedules to which the proposed balanced schedule does not coincide, it will mean extra day care during the year. In the case of my family, it would be around $1,000 each year, money that would probably be spent elsewhere in town.

In the article I read in the Tribune, I didn’t see any mention of enrichment opportunities for the students who would like them during the summer. Perhaps we should look at introducing programs for these students over the regular 12-week summer break. We should look at what our neighbors to the east have, where they schedule their summer school for the students that need the extra help during the first three weeks of August.

Has anyone looked back a little over 10 years ago when the parents of Lakeview School turned down the opportunity to have Lakeview School be year-round?

These are a few of the concerns I have as a parent of two elementary-age children in our district. I hope that our school leaders take the time to listen to all of the concerned parents like myself, as it appears they are willing to do and look at what is the best for our entire community when the actual decision comes on enacting a balanced school year.


Albert Lea resident Tom Jones is an insurance agent, a trophy maker, a husband, a father of two children and a radio commentator for Albert Lea sports. He is a 1980 graduate of Albert Lea High School.