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Blog #17: Communities Bridge the Gap

I live off of Saint Charles Rock Road, or “The Rock” as it’s affectionately called by its residents, and those who are fans of Dwayne Johnson, in Saint Ann, Missouri. About two miles from my house down on “The Rock” (which is what I will be referring to it as without quotations going forward) there is a Target. It’s not the world’s greatest Target, but it gets the job done when it comes to providing you with all of the home decor and graphic tees that you didn’t know that you needed. I was walking out of this store the other day following behind a man wearing a backward flat-brimmed Batman hat, baggy jeans, Avengers boxer shorts, and a plain white t-shirt, let’s call him Samson (Hey there, Delilah). Samson had decided on the way to his car that he was too sexy for his shirt and whipped it off before getting into his car. Apparently, he has a strict “no shirts in the car” policy, which I assume, just like when I lived in Hawaii surrounded by barefooted people, was a cultural preference. It may strike you as odd, but this seems to be the norm in our neighborhood. Shirts are optional when driving. We aren’t classy, but we do have cultural things that define us as an area of St. Louis. Sure there are some other great cultural things about the area such as its diversity, but we are proud of all the aspects of our neighborhood and we don’t plan on leaving any time soon.

I say all this to preview what will be talked about on the podcast tomorrow. The subject is one that’s up for much debate: The four-day school week. Yes, I know I already wrote you a Pro-Con about the four-day school week, but that was before I talked to people who actually work in school districts that have a four-day school week, and it has become clear to me that the decision to change is based on one thing- the community. And that’s what I want to focus on today. The impact of the school on community and vice-versa when it comes to four-day school week.

Before I start writing too in-depth about it, I think we all need to acknowledge something about our schools. They are all different. They have different problems, different economic classes of people, different levels of diversity, different learning abilities, different general family structures, different work schedules, etc. Each district is unique and is not entirely like another. Yes, there are similarities that we can use to help one another, but there are not enough similarities for a “fix-all” for every school in any situation.

Along with that, we need to acknowledge that the school is just ONE of the instruments of the community. I think sometimes as educators, we feel the local public school is the end all/be all of the community. From kindergarten, and in some instances from 3-years-old on, students are in school more than they are in any other social setting for the next 12-15 years. That is a fact. But when we look into the community we see churches, charitable organizations, non-profits, helpful individuals, and local companies filling in the gaps where schools sometimes are unable to fill the void. We need to acknowledge that, not because of our own shortcomings, but as a local achievement bridging the gap for each child.

Every time I hear about another school that has switched to a four-day school week, the first comment that I see is usually from some concerned parent asking (sometimes graciously, sometimes not so much) “Who is going to watch the kids on the other day of the week?”, which is a reasonable question to ask. For years, the schools have provided a free babysitting service for kids after the age of five. Parents can go to work without worrying about having to pay for daycare. For us, getting the kids into school is a much-anticipated dip in the cost of living that seems too far away. Paying for daycare for kids younger than five is like having a second mortgage; but instead of having a second house in mountains that you can retreat to on the weekends, you have one lonesome ransacked house, in which the always timeless fragrance of “Smelly Toddler” has been spritzed throughout the house. Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids, but they are loud, smelly, noisy, pungent, back-talking, annoyingly inquisitive tyrants, who have an unhealthy obsession with pointy objects that could slice or electrocute them…Sorry, I needed to get that out.

The point is this, by switching to the four-day school week, an added cost to mostly income-strapped parents is something that many families are not prepared to handle. But this is where the other pillars of the community have stepped up and brought the community closer together. I want to give you some examples of how that happens.

In both instances I am going to mention, these communities are rural schools who have switched to four-day school weeks for one reason or the other (which you will have to tune in tomorrow to find out what they are). When it comes down to this essential question, “What do we do with the children for the extra day without school?”, each of them came up with a community-based solution that has provided means for other community organizations to step up.

One solution was for the Red Cross to come in and provide Safe-Sitter training to any student in the high school that was interested in becoming a certified babysitter, specifically for the extra day, so that they could watch the elementary and middle school-aged children while their parents went to work. This provided a community that was already limited on the amount of childcare opportunities it could provide an opportunity to empower its young people with responsibility, as well as with a little of bit of income that can help the older students’ families, (but not so much that the parents of those elementary aged children would be hurting financially either). There was a gap and the Red Cross stepped up.

Another solution was in a town that had a very involved local church which stepped up and said that they would watch the students at little to no cost to families. They stepped into the gap to help support the school, and put children first in their community.

The one thing I want you to get from both of these examples is that when it comes to protecting the education of the next generation, and the safety of the community, the entities within that community will step up and fill in the gaps where the school doesn’t have resources to do so. The other thing I want us all to understand is that each community decided for itself what it should do when it came to the question of the four-day school week. They looked at their community and made a decision. They determined that this is something that could work for them. It doesn’t mean that it will necessarily work in an urban school district with thousands more students, but it also doesn’t mean that it won’t work. The community has to make the decision.

Some people want to make it so schools can’t go to four-day school week, and maybe that’s the best decision for the community that those individuals live in. But in the Libertarian spirit that I possess, I would implore you to remember what I said near the beginning; each school is different, and therefore, should have the ability to determine how it will educate the community that it has been charged to educate, with the consent and input of that very community.

Thanks for reading.

Best Wishes,

Seth Tripp