Dimon Kendrick-Holmes: Kids get a longwinter nap

dkholmes@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 7, 2012 

Well, it’s about time.

Muscogee County students return to school on Tuesday, after 20 straight days of freedom.

In case you’re wondering, that’s the longest break among area schools. The schools in nearby systems like Phenix City and Chattahoochee, Harris and Troop counties had 19 days off, counting weekends. Those schools took off the entire week before Christmas and then returned last Wednesday.

Muscogee kids, of course, went to school the Monday and Tuesday before Christmas, and won’t hear a class bell for another three days.

Sure, it seems a bit strange for children to be in school five days before Christmas and still on vacation 14 days after Christmas.

So why the long break? Muscogee County Superintendent Susan Andrews said it’s in response to parents who thought the district already had too many breaks during the spring semester.

“We figured since the students were already out of school, this would be a good time,” she told the Ledger-Enquirer the week before Christmas.

The only complaining I’ve heard was from my 11-year-old son, who thinks school should reconvene on Wednesday instead of Tuesday, so he can sleep late after watching Monday night’s Alabama-LSU game.

Boo hoo.

I told him he should be well rested after sleeping for 20 straight days.

I do find it interesting that Auburn City Schools, with the area’s best reputation, also had the shortest holiday break at 14 days, counting two long weekends.

I also find it interesting that Muscogee teachers were encouraging students to read, solve puzzles and visit educational websites over the holidays.

Can a child’s mind really deteriorate after 20 days of sleeping late, eating candy and playing lots of Angry Birds?

Research has shown that children who live in poverty are more likely to regress academically during prolonged breaks from school. One study found that the reading ability of lower-class students dropped dramatically during summer vacation, while the reading ability of many middle class students actually increased.

And in Columbus, schools that have a majority of disadvantaged students and receive federal grant money are far behind their counterparts in the rest of the state. About 38 percent of Muscogee County’s Title I schools made adequate yearly progress last year, compared with 70 percent for all the Title I schools in Georgia.

But check this out: Two elementary schools in Muscogee County -- Rigdon Road and Georgetown -- actually had 25-day holiday breaks, and both of those schools made AYP.

That’s because Rigdon Road and Georgetown are year-round schools. So maybe the secret is longer holiday breaks and shorter summer ones.

But don’t tell my kids I said that.

Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, managing editor/content, can be reached at dkholmes@ledger-enquirer.com

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