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Opinion: This nation needs an educational gap year
Riverbend classroom spring 2020

I’m a former teacher who taught for over three decades. During my career, there were a few times that a disease went through a school in a matter of a week or two.  Not everyone became ill but enough were sick to impact instruction.  

Usually flu was the culprit but once it was pink eye. It is difficult to control a disease once it infiltrates the school’s environment. Students will not practice social distance and teachers have to work with children. Schools have supporting staff members, and everyone at school eventually goes home to their families.  

If COVID-19 enters the school environment, it will impact the entire community.  

President Trump is demanding that schools open for the 2020-21 school year, but I have a suggestion I hope educational leaders consider. This may seem extreme, but I will attempt to explain why I feel this is necessary.  

Why can’t the nation take an educational gap year? Just take the year off. Ten years from now will it matter that students graduated when 19 years old instead of at 18? There might even be educational benefits. At any age, while growing up, older students learn easier than younger ones. For example, children born early in the calendar year tend to be better students than students born later in the year. These students are not more intelligent, but they are more mature.  

Having a gap year would increase the maturity of all students. A student entering first grade when 7 years old will be better prepared to handle the work than the same student would have accomplished when 6. This would result in more successful schools.  

I believe that teachers and staff need to remain employees during this period. If they are laid off, there is the possibility that when the 2021-22 school year arrives, educational systems may not be able to fill all vacancies. Doing this would be a difficult sell to the community, but in the long run might be less expensive than trying to hire new staff.  

People when let go tend to move on. Retention, during this difficult period should be a priority. 

Jimmy O'Neill 


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