Unfortunately, the Yankton School Board embraced the right decision Monday when it unanimously approved a plan to allow for early dismissals of school on Fridays each week starting Oct. 9 and running for the rest of the fall semester.
It’s unfortunate because it’s been brought about by the persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic. It forced schools across the country to shift to online, off-site learning last spring in the middle of a semester and with very little warning. It plunged many educators and students into a foreign realm of detached distance learning that all involved (including parents) are still trying to figure out.
It’s unfortunate because, despite all the planning that was done over the summer, each school day still seems like a journey into the unknown. There are students taking classes on site, but there are also students taking classes remotely. Some students are suddenly taken out of the classroom when they land in quarantine. The same goes with teachers. And all this creates tensions that have placed extraordinary strains on all involved, particularly teachers who are trying to stay ahead of these constantly shifting situations.
It’s unfortunate because all this was unavoidable.
The school board decided to allow early Friday dismissals in order to give teachers a chance to work with remote-learning students and also to better prepare for the burdens that these days are throwing at the educational process.
Monday night’s special meeting, which dealt solely with this topic, was emotional at times as teachers and administrators shared their frustrations and hardships in dealing with the current normal of educating kids. Preparation time has become precious and nominal, and everything has been multiplied to deal with various students learning through various avenues. (As one teacher put it, the situation was like the mythological Sisyphus trying to roll two boulders instead of one up a mountain.)
The early dismissals should give teachers a chance to catch up at least somewhat with their preparations and to work with students, especially those who may need extra attention.
The early dismissals will also permit school staff to do more thorough cleaning of facilities — a chore that has become an essential part of the regimen to contain the spread of COVID-19.
A concern was expressed during Monday’s meeting that the early dismissals might deprive students of the class time they really need these days. School officials offered assurances that the school district will be readily able to more than meet the state requirements for classroom time.
Overall, the board’s decision was the right one — or really, the best one that could be made at this moment.
Someday, education will return to what we all recognize as normal and to the way it was meant to be imparted and processed. Someday, this will all be sane again.
But until then, these times call for unusual accommodations, such as what was embraced Monday. It was unfortunate, but it makes practical sense.