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No Summer School, No Pools: Budget Cuts Leave Kids Idle

No Summer School, No Pools: Budget Cuts Leave Kids Idle

It’s not yet the dog days of summer, but it’s going to be a long hot one for many kids. Budget cuts have meant that school districts have cancelled summer classes and are even shortening the days students are in the classroom. Some cities have also had to close public swimming pools. While pools might seem a bit of a luxury to talk about given the financial issues many municipalities are facing, the closing of a pool is a significant loss to urban communities where  there are few options for families who can’t exactly the afford to join a private club.

Ironically, the shortening of the school year comes at a time when educators have been trying to push things in the opposite direction, says the New York Times:

For two decades, advocates have been working to modernize the nation’s traditional 180-day school calendar, saying that the languid summers evoked in “To Kill a Mockingbird” have a pernicious underside: each fall, many students — especially those who are poor — return to school having forgotten much of what they learned the previous year. The Obama administration picked up the mantra: at his 2009 confirmation hearing, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan declared, “Our school day is too short, our school week is too short, our school year is too short,” but its efforts in this realm have not been as successful as other initiatives.

The most ambitious federal program in this realm is part of a $4 billion effort to overhaul 1,150 failing schools, in which each is required to select an improvement model that includes a new schedule increasing learning time. In the Denver suburbs, for example, Fort Logan Elementary School has used the federal money to add four and a half hours of instruction per week.

While some school districts, including Pittsburgh and Brandon, South Dakota, are keeping summer programs alive thanks to federal stimulus money or (in the case of Brandon), educators volunteering their time, the New York Times cites far more cases of districts trimming down the 180-day-calendar. In Oregon, students are now in the classroom an average of 165 days as districts negotiate furlough days with teachers’ unions. In Nevada, a new law sets 175 days as the minimum. In California, districts whose revenues for the upcoming school year are falling short only have to have a minimum of 168 days on the calendar. The minimum is 178 days in Hawaii, but in 2009, the minimum was down to 163 days.

The closure of swimming pools, especially in some of the US’s steamier spots — central Florida, Atlanta, Baltimore, Houston — is a sad loss. Pools are endangered species in times of budgetary woes as they’re only open for three months a year and come with substantial costs, including lifeguards, insurance and upkeep. A pool might seem a perk when it comes to the sacrifices communities have had to make, but they serve a crucial role in urban life as noted by Ed Gonzalez, a city councilman in Independence Heights, a historically black neighborhood in Houston whose median income was $27,000 in 2009:

… [Gonzalez] said the loss of a pool there would sting worse than in more well-to-do neighborhoods. “There are no other true community assets out there,” he said. “Your neighborhood park and your pools are the only real amenities that some of these communities have.”

.Mr. Gonzalez, a former police officer, said it was not just a matter of letting people beat the heat. The lack of a local pool, he said, could have an impact on public safety. “If kids do not have a productive thing to do, like swimming or community centers to go to,” he said, “it’s more idle time they have on their hands.”

More idle time, that is, on the top of the increased time kids are not in school as districts whittle down their calendars. Talk about a vicious cycle and further reason to feel that our country is earning a failing grade in preparing our kids for tomorrow.

 

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32 comments

+ add your own
8:56AM PDT on Apr 29, 2012

ty

6:37AM PDT on Jul 14, 2011

Thanks for the article.

1:48PM PDT on Jul 11, 2011

Not sure how money being handled in this area, but at the federal level, they can only use 58% of our tax dollars because the interest on the debt takes 42 cents of every single dollar.

Yet another reason NOT to raise the federal debt ceiling. Or the local one.

11:53AM PDT on Jul 11, 2011

I think these mental midgets in office need a dose of summer school themselves!!!!

9:20AM PDT on Jul 10, 2011

Perhaps having to use their own initiative and abilities, instead of depending on adults to provide everything, might just be the making of some children.

9:17AM PDT on Jul 10, 2011

Why can't kids entertain themselves? We were able to when we were young.!

8:37AM PDT on Jul 10, 2011

Well said, Blaise.

5:49AM PDT on Jul 10, 2011

thanks

12:15AM PDT on Jul 10, 2011

In too many communities the only public pool facility is in a middle or upper-class neighborhood where they often sit idle. Close the pools that are not being fully utilized but keep then open in areas where families can't afford expensive Y memberships and rely on public pools for fun and relaxation but also as a place where children can learn to swim, a opening up the possibility of a lifetime of exercise. We need to get beyond the close it - save a dollar here or there mentality and look at programs individually.

9:05PM PDT on Jul 9, 2011

And who said the States, counties, whatever are supposed to keep kids entertained for the summer.. hello any parents there??

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