5th Graders Write With Real Feeling

COMMENT

April 24, 1994|By ELISE ARMACOST

Letters, I get letters. But few as interesting and entertaining as the impassioned epistles written by the fifth-graders at Glen Burnie's Point Pleasant Elementary on the subject of year-round schools.

Usually letters to the editor from students read exactly like what they are: an assignment, something the kids had to do. The Point Pleasant children were asked to write to us as a project for Newspaper Education Month last month. But their letters are different; they have the ring of genuine emotion and burgeoning conviction.

"At first," says teacher Kathy Wick, "there was a general sigh when I told them we were going to write letters to the editor. But when I told them they were going to write about year-round schools there was an instant hue and cry."

As everyone knows by now, Anne Arundel is one of several Maryland counties studying the possibility of keeping schools open 12 months by sending children to school in alternating weeks-long shifts, called "tracks." Here was a topic that struck a nerve with 10- to 11-year-olds, most of whom (surprise, surprise) are staunchly opposed to the whole idea and not afraid to say so. We don't have room to print all the letters, but here are snippets from a few of my favorites.

From Alexandra Johnson, who has already been through a few too many Maryland summers:

"I am against year-round school. We, for instance, have no air conditioning. It feels like we could boil to death! . . . After a while, teachers and students go crazy. They get sick and tired of seeing each other. . . . Oh, and one last thing. A girl fainted because of the heat. She was on the upper floor on a 103-degree day. Whew!"

Graphic details on the same theme from Erin Huffstetler:

"When summer comes it gets so hot that you can cook breakfast on your seat. It is so hot in the room that when we sweat we get stuck to our seat."

More unpleasant thoughts about the heat from Adam Brocato:

"If I get real hot I can throw up. . . . If other kids have asthma and get overheated they will pass out."

From Tom "The Real Thing" Redmond:

"The heat will dehydrate kids . . . [but] we are not allowed to drink drinks like Coke or Gatorade in school. If we could have Coke it would be better."

From Ricky McGuire, the economic pragmatist:

"If you give us year-round school, Ocean City will go out of business. The governor will not be able to go to his favorite vacation place."

Mr. Brocato, on how to beat the system:

"It would be easier to play hooky. Just say you are on Track B when Track B is out for those weeks. But you are really on Track A when A is in school for those weeks. If people say, 'Why were you not in school for so long?' say, 'I was, I'm on Track A.' "

Billy Jankowski, on an impending social crisis:

"Year-round schools -- I don't think so! . . . What about child care? Let's say you lived with your Mom, she can't get any days off work while you get a break. Where are the children going to go?"

From Amber Pence, author of the immortal line, "I like school, it's a good way to kill time between weekends":

"Absolutely, positively no year-round schools. I will not tolerate this. . . . Everyone deserves a whole vacation of nice rest."

There were also those (about one-third of the children, actually) who supported the year-round concept.

"The classrooms wouldn't get overcrowded because not all of the students would be there all of the time," wrote Laura Natcher. "You wouldn't have to worry about vacations. For example, you could go on a three-week vacation and come back, and you didn't miss any school.

"Learning could be more continual, and you wouldn't forget anything over three weeks. . . . You would get to know students and teachers better because you would spend more continual )) time with them."

She makes a good case -- although not quite as good as this emotional plea from Hana Lynn Colvin:

"In the summer, when the weather is simply divine, we shouldn't be kept inside. We should be outside playing kickball and watching our little gardens bloom and grow.

"We're children! You can't have us working all the time. We need breaks once in a while. I really love school and look forward to learning about new things . . . but I don't really believe I would enjoy going much, knowing I had 12 months of school, then another 12 months, with no breaks! Where did our childhood go? You know the saying, don't grow up too fast. Let us stay children a little bit longer!"

Elise Armacost is The Baltimore Sun's editorial writer in Anne Arundel County.

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