I’m mad and would like not to take it anymore, but as with much else when it comes to our schools, looks like I’ll just have to grin and bear it with the rest of you. At issue is the preponderance of half-days in modern schooling. My friend has children who go to Rye Country Day, where they apparently dole out the half days liberally. In fact, my friend has redubbed the school. Its new name? Rye Country Half-Day.
And who can blame him? For working parents who are pulling the plow all day, half-days have all the charm of an impacted molar. And for single parents? Well, half-days mean their schedules truly suffer all manner of trial.
While you and I cleave to the ideal that school will pretty much keep our kids busy most of the day, schools apparently have other ideas. Parent-teacher conferences and the ever bothersome halved day right before vacation, all conspire to cut the school day to ribbons. I even harbor the creeping suspicion that half-days are occasionally declared at random. One local district recently gave students a half day for teacher conferences that ran till 7 p.m., then gave the kids and the teachers a half-day the following day to make up for the overtime the teachers worked.
But when it comes to half-days, suspicions abound. I have never crowd sourced an article before — and probably for good reason — but I asked on Twitter if anyone had thoughts and perceptions of half days and responses tumbled forth. “My wife,” said George Acs, who goes by the Twitter handle @GeorgeAcs, “always used to say that whoever came up with idea of 1/2 day school must have been male,”.
James Naples, known on Twitter as @jnaples, went one further: “the increase in 1/2 days was a hard fought victory of the lobbyists representing the video game industry,” he posited. Gordon Eckler, also known as @geckler, snarked: “If you could get away with keeping ‘em only half the day wouldn't you?
Indeed, half-days seem to bring out the bitterness. One friend, who requested anonymity so his kid wouldn’t fail kindergarten, where every day is truncated, said that half-days contribute to the gnawing sense the public has that teachers are enjoying a bit of a racket.
How much of a racket is reality? When three half-days passed in rapid succession, I began to wonder and called the New York State Education Department. New York, it turns out, holds that public schools can have four of these dreaded half-days every half-year, for an annual total of eight. Make that 12 if your district decides to hold staff training days, known as Superintendent days, for the maximum allowed -- another four half-days.
So what do you say, considering? Is it just my persnickety nature or is this preponderance of half-days a full-fledged abomination?
Marek Fuchs is the author of "A Cold-Blooded Business," the true story of a murderer, from Westchester, who almost got away with it. His upcoming book on volunteer firefighting across America, “Local Heroes,” is due out in 2012. He wrote The New York Times' "County Lines" column about life in Westchester for six years and teaches non-fiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College, in Bronxville. He also serves as a volunteer firefighter. You can contact Marek through his website: www.marekfuchs.com or on Twitter: @MarekFuchs