Latest Issue

Let’s Go Back to “Old School”

Well the kiddos are back to school, and that can mean only one thing — there are a lot of happy parents across the West Branch Valley. No matter how much you love spending time with your children, it just seems that by the end of the summer, you’re ready for them to return to their regular routine and structure. The wet weather put a damper on many outdoor activities and kept the youngsters cooped up in the house way too long.

So this is where I remind you of my public service message, let’s be extra careful out there, school’s open! Young people are going to make mistakes; it’s up to us to keep our eyes wide open around the bus stops, school crossings, and heavy traffic pedestrian areas. There are more distractions in today’s world than ever, as a driver — focus on what’s most important — driving. Parents, remind your student to keep their eyes up and not buried in that smartphone on the way to school. This goes double for all those operating a motor vehicle. I cannot believe the things I see each week in regards to drivers distracted by electronic devices. It would probably make for a good column, some of it humorous, but not very funny due to what the consequences could be.

Yes, I do know that several schools have not opened due to a mold problem. Wow, if I had known that back in the day, my friends and I would have bought up every loaf of bread we could find and spread them throughout the classrooms. Can you imagine how exciting it would have been, when you were a kid, to learn the start of school was delayed a couple of weeks? You would not have cared if it was by mold or a meteor hit the school. It would be like a last-minute reprieve from the governor.

For those of you wondering, yes, I know it’s a different kind of mold. I also understand the frustration of some parents with the extra long wet summer, and also those concerned about the cost incurred by the school district for cleaning up all that mold. However, to this I quote Forrest Gump, “S*** happens.” White and black mold in this case. When you turn on the TV and see all the problems in today’s world, this isn’t one of them. I guarantee you your students will get 180 days of a quality education. But more importantly, the schools will be mold free and clean — maybe even extra clean. One thing’s for sure, no child will be getting sick from whatever mold was growing.

This brings me to my next point. Mother Nature has done what common sense has failed to do in the state of Pennsylvania, have the opening of the school year the Tuesday after Labor Day. I can just hear all the PA Department of Education folks reciting a hundred reasons why this isn’t possible in today’s world. I would not believe a bit of it. It is the bureaucracy of State and Federal Government being greater than the sum of common sense. It has everything to do with the PSSA and standardized testing, which the State and Fed began really pushing around 2003. Did I mention government then made school funding dependent on PSSA testing and the level of scores?

Back in the day, schools opened post-Labor Day with full days and no problems. If you’re going to incur the cost of opening buildings, staffing, and running buses, why wouldn’t you wait till after the Labor Day vacation? Not to mention to create some continuity for the returning students and teachers.

Yes, I again can hear their answers — there has to be so many teacher in-service days, there have to be so many days built in for weather and unforeseen circumstances. The bottom line is, the PA Department of Education and their Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) have almost forced the school districts into earlier open dates to properly prepare students for the required testing. At the end of the day, they know much more than I do of what’s best for educating children. Probably because I was taught English, math, science, and history and not taught the importance of PSSA test scores.

I would bet my PSSA that they could go “Old School,” beginning the educational year that Tuesday after Labor Day, and ending the school year 7 to 10 days after Memorial Day. That includes time to build in those in-service days, vacation days that can be used for inclement weather, and enough wiggle room for some other things. Besides, what’s the worst thing that happens when you get a bad winter? You exhaust all options available, and then go a couple of extra days at the end of the year.

Moving right along. There is no doubt in my mind PIAA — Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association has been void of any common sense for years. Most of their poor decision-making penalizes public schools in regards to fair competition. However, the governing body of Pennsylvania high school sports has shown they’re impartial when it comes to lack of common sense. All schools playing football governed by PIAA began practice and games one week earlier for the 2018 season. This means teams will play two regular season games in August. Maybe that’s why they require three days of heat acclimation even though they now allow summer-long practices and seven-on-seven passing scrimmages. That makes sense right?

Nothing they do is in the best interest of the student/football player. Football is, and should always be, a fall sport for so many reasons, the health concerns of those playing being the most important. The only thing that has driven the start times up at the collegiate and professional levels is the money. Pennsylvania High School football is the fabric of many communities and school districts. These days are such a special part of growing up, and it goes without saying not many will go on to play in college. The few teams standing in December — playing for a state title — should never be more important than what’s good for all.

So, what is the answer? Simple. Go back to the “Old School” football schedule statewide. Two weeks of preseason practice beginning the third calendar week of August both ending with a scrimmage against another school. Then you kick it off for real the following Friday or Saturday. This, coupled with the students return to the classroom after Labor Day just makes good common sense.

A tip of the cap to our area’s teachers, coaches, administration, and school board members for the great job they do for the young people of the West Branch Valley. I wish everyone a successful and safe 2018-2019 school year.

God Bless America.

Jim Webb

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *