NELSON: Time at school helps students socially and educationally
FACE TO FACE: Would a four-day school week be good for education and kids?
You can’t make this stuff up. Planters is out of peanuts. Heinz might stop making ketchup. And Alberta can’t find money to fund public schools?
Yes, unbelievably, Fort McMurray, Alta., a mere gas pump from the tar sands, has a $4.4-million school budget deficit. But rather than demand increased fracking funding, Fort Mac’s school board has instead opted for an austerity scheme to adopt a four-day school week.
Fort McMurray. Let’s see, other than cutting a day from the school week, where else might the city’s education leaders find money to adequately fund schools?
Surely Fort McMurray’s biggest school problem should be to keep students from being struck by the armoured cars transporting bags of cash back and forth from the oil sands.
Ultimately, Fort McMurray’s parents kiboshed the four-day school week plan. Why? Was it because it’s not a good idea educationally? No, it was because of the daycare difficulties they would face if their kids had one fewer day at school.
Education underfunding is the problem that needs solving. Fort McMurray’s plan to save money by reducing the school week to four days was monumentally ill-considered by all involved — rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic without anybody mentioning the iceberg.
And if Alberta can watch oil companies make $260 billion since 1986 mere miles from the cash strapped Fort Mac school board office without demanding a few million for adequate public school funding, B.C.’s already serially underfunded schools are in real trouble.
Our educational discussions should focus on what’s best for our kids, not on gimmicky money-saving schemes.
By the way, a four-day school week won’t help schools or kids. Our kids need time away from parents, computer screens, virtual solitude and siblings. They need time to explore their individuality, learn to take personal responsibility, tolerate and work with others of different religions, colours, genders, sexual orientations and ability levels.
These things are learned best at school and five days are better than four.
Inadequate education funding is our prerequisite problem. At the very least, when we explore ways to improve education in B.C., perhaps we might study policy and pedagogy in countries with adequately funded schools rather than consider austerity plans from the oil patch.
Face to Face columnist Jim Nelson is a retired Tri-City teacher and principal who lives in Port Moody. He has contributed a number of columns on education-related issues to The Tri-City News.