As a community member and graduate student who also works at a local university in the Gainesville area, and who serves underrepresented minority students at this university, I would like to respectfully state my concern regarding the Gainesville City decision to not make up school days missed due to Hurricane Irma.
While I absolutely agree with safety as first priority and ensuring that student physical needs are attended to (and I commend counties that opened school doors to assist students and families with access to water and food), I am concerned that the Gainesville City School System acted hastily in their decision to offer up these days as “free days,” and with no make up option.
As I continue in my work with college freshman from the Gainesville and Hall County areas, I notice several things: Continued ill-preparedness in study habits, critical thinking, writing skills, and certain life skills. I do not necessarily think that the school is responsible for teaching every life skill needed, but perhaps instead of a commitment to attend events (a worthy and altruistic cause, but that which ultimately will not contribute to a student learning how to study for (and PASS) the SAT or the ACT, thus pursuing a post-secondary option), make up days could be put forth to assist students in gaining access to much needed resources on obtaining scholarships, how to apply to college, options for DACA students (another VITAL issue in our community), applying for the FAFSA, etc.
I do not pretend to currently understand the culture of the K-12 system, as I am several years removed from working there. However, I am a proponent of finding ways to keep students in the classroom for the allotted time, especially those students who can certainly benefit from extra tutoring in various subjects, honing writing skills (simply learning how to put basic thoughts down!), practicing English (I’m thinking of my ESL students) and even budgeting. These are the issues I deal with on a collegiate level everyday, and some of which that I would love to collaborate alongside other student advocates in the K-12 system.
The bottom line is this: As we teach and support students who need extra help and encouragement in many areas of their lives, including academics, we must acknowledge that we cannot short their time in the classroom, despite the questions regarding potential absences or questionable, meaningful instruction time. If we, as their teachers and advocates, are not present in the classroom, the students can’t be present either. But at least hourly employees will be compensated.