Sheri McMahon, Fargo, Published September 05 2013
Letter: Sound reasons to start school in September, wrap up in JuneSome years ago, I was at a Fargo School Board meeting when a teacher presented arguments to the board regarding the school start date, advocating for a later start. As I recall, the constraints against a later start were claimed to be the state track meet and the beginning of the fall semester at area universities.
The notion that an early June (i.e., the first week of June) end, and start after Labor Day, makes the summer shorter strains the rational mind. When my child was a student, I was also a student at North Dakota State University, and another year I taught an NDSU class. What I remember most about the start of school was the heat, often with extreme humidity. Ninety-degree temperatures are not uncommon. This kind of heat rarely occurs in late May or early June, and does not occur in extended stretches early in the summer.
I remember attending a University of North Dakota graduation party with 4 inches of snow, and I can remember snow flurries on May 11. When is the last time we had snow flurries the last week of August? Historical patterns for Bismarck (the only North Dakota city I was able to find this data for) show an average high of 80 for Sept. 1, with highs between 90 and 90 degrees 45 percent of the time.
The Forum reported that parents with medically fragile children could keep kids home in the recent heat. I would add that the excessive heat is additional stress for kids who are not medically fragile but have other disabilities. Medical research published by the National Institutes of Health confirms that heat waves present a “salient risk” to those with mental illness, with increased hospital admissions for psychiatric reasons.
As a “special needs” parent, I found those hot first weeks of school to be profoundly difficult for my family, with a negative impact on the rest of the semester.
On average, at least 10 percent of students in any public school qualify as students with disabilities – physical, cognitive, and/or emotional – that affect learning, and the needs of these students also deserve consideration other than simply saying they don’t have to be in school when it’s too hot.