By John Klar, American Thinker
A Vermont school district has been mulling over a novel policy to give its teachers Wednesday afternoon off to alleviate their COVID stress — extending a “Snowsports Program” for the remainder of the school year.
In a November 17, 2021 meeting of the Arlington School Board, advocates for this proposal extolled the struggles of teachers during COVID-19 [30:28]. School superintendent Bill Bazyk went to bat for teachers (30:38):
We are very concerned as a group about our teachers. Nobody planned on this. … But we are nervous. I’m not sure how much longer they can take it, but they are doing a great job so one of the things that we are wanting to ask the Board … is to extend our JISP days for the whole year this year. … We need to give them some wellness days, we need to give them some time to themselves, and you know, catch up. We’re not proposing this lightly, we know that it will be difficult for parents but what I would say to parents who ask is, you know, we all have our jobs, we all need breaks. We can’t just work these teachers to the bone where they’re not going to be able to perform and we’re going to get higher absenteeism.
(JISP refers to the existing “Junior Instructional Snowsports Program”).
When asked whether the proposal had been discussed with the affected teachers, Bill Bazyk (35:31) counters, “I can’t imagine any staff saying no to this.” One woman then reports (36:45) that the elementary school teachers enjoyed their kids-free JIST afternoons, reporting “how much fresher and revived they felt teaching, and how much more energy they had. … Many of them asked, is there any chance we could do this all year?”
A thoughtful voice (37:24) hazards “a little bit of concern just about what it would do to working families” because “child care is so difficult to get right now.” Bazyk quickly dismisses such concerns, declaring that “we are asking parents to sacrifice.”
There is no mention of reducing teacher pay in concert with reduced school hours: children would lose 10% of their total in-school time, and some parents would have to leave them unattended, leave work, or hire care providers. Teachers and staff would not incur a penny of expense — no sacrifice.
The proposal would seem to present issues of inequity. Many tax-paying parents work very long hours under COVID stressors, and they lack the ability to give themselves a “break.” Teachers bristle when ribbed that they get the middle of the year (“summer vacation”) off from work – now they need a middle-of-the-week break as well?
Is the proposal fair to children, who are to be left alone? An apologist outlines (at 42:00) the solution:
Sixth grade, maybe, but seventh through twelfth definitely, students are more apt to stay home alone. Definitely eighth through twelfth. And there may be some opportunities for some of our older kids to provide care to younger kids as well during that time.
Shall all Vermont school staff have Wednesday afternoons off for the year at taxpayer expense? Since school taxes are levied and disbursed at the state level, Mr. Bazyk is proposing to extend benefits very in-equitably. What of private schools? There is no question that COVID has challenged teachers — it has challenged everyone. But shall doctors and nurses get Wednesdays off? Perhaps their patients just need to sacrifice, too.
Ironically, someone quips (at 52:15) that no one will even watch the meeting video: “You mean our huge viewing audience? … It’s riveting.” [Laughter.]
This news story was adapted from a commentary published in American Thinker. The author is a Brookfield farmer, lawyer, former pastor, and 2020 candidate for governor.