The DeKalb County School District (DCSD) will continue to add 20 minutes to its school day through Thursday, Nov. 30, in an effort to recapture time lost due to the storm known as Hurricane Irma.
This will allow DCSD to recover three of the four days lost to Irma. The district will waive the fourth day. We will be off for Thanksgiving and Winter Break as regularly scheduled.
• There will be no 20-minute extended day on Halloween (Tuesday, Oct. 31).
• DCSD schools will also remain open on Election Day (Tuesday, Nov. 7).
• Schools will also be closed Nov. 20-24 for the Thanksgiving Holiday.
• Winter Break will remain as originally scheduled.
A DeKalb Schools teacher was motivated to send their thoughts about the make up schedule to me so that I might share with you.
From a DeKalb Schools Teacher
When Hurricane Irma hit, Dekalb County was one of the hardest hit in the metro area. We had more trees down, more power outages, and more impacted schools than any other county in the region. I agreed with the decision to keep the schools closed because I have been in a situation many times where one school has had to evacuate to another school because the facility is not safe. We have had water outages and power outages over the years, and I can tell you that when we house another school it is extremely hard for that school to get anything done. Most of the time, our first priority is just making sure that the kids are safe and that they have suitable facilities to be fed and go to the bathroom. It is hard to teach a class effectively in a gym with 10 other classes in the room simultaneously, with no whiteboard, no desks for the kids… you see my point. Many people ranted that it was stupid for us to be out, but as a parent of a student with a kid at a facility with no power for 3 days, I was understanding.
When Dekalb decided to make up 2 days, I ALSO understood it. We have no idea what the winter is going to bring, and making up time during first semester was necessary… especially for schools on the 4×4 block, getting a class completed in one semester. So, we added 20 minutes to the school day for the month and we added election day. So, now we are on par with all of the other counties in the surrounding metro Atlanta area.
Since the hurricane, the county has waffled back and forth on what decision should be best. First, the school days were going to be extended through December, then that was backtracked to October, with the promise of a decision by October 16. Adding days using the Thanksgiving break and the Winter break were options that were on the table. According to Dekalb County News Now, “The decision to extend school days in November was made after surveying parents, teachers, principals, and other groups”. Maybe I am just out of the loop, but I know that I never received any kind of survey.
So, four days after the expected announcement, we are now being asked to extend our days by another 20 minutes for November. Why? Most teachers will tell you that a 20-minute extension has been ineffective. Even in a school that is trying its best to maximize the time, by the time the kids transition from one subject to the targeted learning time… you maybe have 15 minutes at best. By the time the lesson is explained, the kids have 10 minutes to work. Nothing is really being accomplished. Having a school on a 7-period schedule and adding 3 minutes per class, is that really benefitting the kids?
Especially for the parents in the middle schools, this has created a lot of inconvenience for families. Kids riding buses are not getting home much before 5 PM at the earliest, and many are getting home later than that. If your child has after-school activities, this extension is affecting travel time and traffic. It has caused added stress without a lot of educational benefit.
So, if we know that this choice has added little educational impact and has increased stress on families, then why are we making up another day when all the other counties ALSO missed two days under the state of emergency? The only reason I can think of is to make the teachers make up contractual hours. This is where my understanding goes flying out the window.
For most teachers, the job goes well beyond the contracted school day. Every minute that I work outside of those eight hours, that is me working on my own time. While there might be teachers in every building in every school system in the USA that only work during their contracted time, most us work LONG BEYOND those contracted hours. Elementary teachers get minimal planning time. Middle and high school teachers get a little more, but you might be amazed at how many of those hours get eaten away by parent conferences, SST meetings, 504 meetings, grade level meetings, required paperwork that has nothing to do with your actual class, and covering for your colleagues because we don’t have enough subs showing up for school when teachers are absent.
Most of us grade papers on our own time. Most of us create those really creative lessons on our own time. Every minute that we put into our classrooms outside of the workday does NOT COUNT towards contractual time. Yet, we do it. Why? We do it for the kids. It sounds corny, but it is true. Everything that a good teacher does is done with the children in mind. A lot of us WERE working during the 4 days off as soon as we had power. Why? It was the perfect opportunity to get things done while stuck in the house.
So, if this 20-minute extended day has been inconvenient for parents, teachers, administrators, bus drivers, and substitutes that are not getting paid any more for their time… and it has little educational benefit, why are we doing it? Why are we doing it if we are now on par with all of the surrounding counties in terms of days lost due to Hurricane Irma?
My logic takes me down to two reasons. What do you think they might be?