Early out mixed blessing for schools

       School is letting out three weeks early for Bristol and Washington elementaries this year. Is this the best school year or what?
       Maybe not completely, according to Shirley Sharp of the Washington Parent Teachers Organization (PTO). In a recent interview, she passed on concerns that working parents will have nowhere to take their kids between May 4 and the start of summer school June 4. Not only that, she said, but summer school itself (lasting till June 29) will be only half-day this year because the Adventures in Learning program that has kept summer-schoolers busy in the afternoons in recent years is no longer available to the YMCA.
       “Parents are saying: 'What am I going to do?'” Sharp said. “Most parents can't go out in the middle of the day and pick up their kids.”
       At Bristol Elementary, secretary Anne Mueller said she has heard from “some parents” who've commented, 'I have to find some daycare,'” However, for the most part, her impression is that “not too many are up in arms about it.”
       The situation arose because both schools are undergoing interior reconstruction projects this summer. The work is so extensive that contractors needed the extra weeks to get the work done in time for the start of the 2007-08 school year in August.
       Educationally, the worry is that, with a longer summer and possibly - without the attraction of the Y program - fewer kids in summer school, some students will forget what they've learned and fall behind in the next school year.
       Washington Principal Terry Martinez agrees, to a point, describing the situation as a “double blow.” Washington is traditionally a summer school site (Bristol students go there also). He had worked with the PTO to try to find a location for an “extended summer school” to start in early May, taking care of both schools. An area church had offered a good deal for use of its facilities; however, the cost for teachers was more than the district could afford, he said.
       Though disappointed about that, he added optimistically, that even if some students have lapses when they return in August, “We'll recover from it.”
       From a parental standpoint, Sharp said that, based on her own research, it won't be easy for parents to find niches for their children in May. Daycare establishments don't usually take students for short periods of time, summer programs aren't running yet and the Boys & Girls Club is only open in the afternoon.
       Most worrisome of all, Sharp thinks many parents are blissfully unaware that there even are changes this year. “I'm not saying I'm not appreciative of the upgrades at the schools,” she emphasized. “I just want to make the community aware.”
       She's open to suggestions - if any parents or teachers know of a program, she'd like to hear about it. She asks people to come by the school or call in (328-4800).
       She hopes, by Friday, April 13, at Washington's Chili Cook-off (scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m.), “to have a table with literature from different places,” she said. “And if not that, then I'd like to at least have phone numbers.”

Westside Pioneer article