It’s still August, but Brownwood’s public schools have already been in session for more than a week. The child inside me can’t believe it, but my inner grandparent can.
Our grandson, who lives in the Austin area, started first grade a full week before students returned in Brownwood. By next week, all Brown County schools will be in operation.
As a reporter, I covered school boards enough to understand the logic — and if not the logic, the state regulations which sometimes defy logic — behind decisions that lead public schools to start classes during the hottest weeks of the year. School calendars are not easy to craft, and almost everyone is going to dislike something.
School starts too soon. School ends too late. The Christmas break is too short. Classes start too early. Classes start too late. It’s impossible to please everyone.
Back to school is even a bigger production now than it was when I was a wee lad making that three-block walk to my elementary school campus with my mother. Today, mass marketing of back-to-school necessities begins shortly after those patriotic red, white, and blue Fourth of July items are no longer timely and are removed from store shelves. This summer, I noticed that school supplies were on sale during the final days of July, and I thought, “That’s too soon.”
I recall having children in school, and how I learned that holding off until the last minute is a mistake. We would wait until the weekend just before school opened, and find ourselves driving from store to store, searching in vain for the precise box of crayons and the exact type of pencils. Other parents had already scooped all of them up, it seemed. Unfortunately, this was in the era before Amazon Prime’s next-day delivery.
That’s when I learned that standing on principle and refusing to jump into back-to-school shopping because you think it’s much too soon can result in disappointment. Doing so can mean you’re left holding the (empty) bag. The most popular items sometimes sell out long before the opening bell for class sounds.
As a student, I enjoyed the days in August when my parents took me shopping for school supplies. Even now, I like visiting office supply stores. The pencils, the notebook paper, the crayons, the scissors, the calculators — bring it on. The age of electronics and technology has added to that experience, and it’s all good.
Some schools still wait until after Labor Day to open for the fall semester, and that somehow still seems the way it ought to be. However, some of those schools are also still in session well into the month of June. Somehow, that doesn’t seem to be the way it ought to be.
Texas state education officials have adopted the “number of hours” approach instead of the “number of days” method of minimum instruction, and that’s innovative. By adding several minutes to each school day, the number of days in class can be trimmed. If a school day isn’t so long that students — and also teachers — grow too weary to function, it seems like a good way to manage school calendars.
This isn’t an issue for Brown County, but schools in metropolitan areas are staggering the start time to avoid traffic jams and better utilize bus fleets. I’ve seen school administrators engage in the task of drawing school bus routes. That’s not simple, either. Perhaps there’s an app for that these days.
It’s a bit late, but still good advice: Drivers should stop for children boarding and departing school buses and stay off their cell phones in school zones.
School days are back, so let’s celebrate! Take Monday off.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.