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Tales from the Motherhood: Weighing cons to school starting before Labor Day

Published: Friday, Sept. 6, 2013 4:31 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, Sept. 6, 2013 4:36 p.m. CST

I’m just gonna say it. Enough is enough with school beginning before Labor Day. Am I the only one who thinks this is nonsense?

Where I grew up, in upstate New York, we always started school after Labor Day. But here in the Chicago area, it seems school begins earlier and earlier every year.

This year, my kids went back Aug. 20. Next year, they start school on Aug. 19. My yoga teacher reminded me that they actually get out before Memorial Day, this school year. Wow. I looked it up. May 23, 2014, to be precise. And next year (2015)? The 22nd. I’ll say it again. Wow.

“Have a nice summer, and don’t forget your winter coat,” she quipped, as we rolled up our yoga mats Wednesday morning. That’s not such a stretch, if you consider how chilly May is.

Temperatures typically average in the 50s. And in Maine, where Noah attended school through first grade, it often snows in early May. But I digress.

In the Tri-Cities, temps tend to hit highs in the 80s during three months, June, July and August. You know, “summer.” Summer doesn’t technically end until around Sept. 21, but I’m not greedy. But I am annoyed. After all, in August, Mother Nature’s saying “Swim!” while everyone else says “Shop!” That just feels unnatural to me.

Perhaps that’s why I’m never really mentally ready for school to begin when it does.

I do manage to at least purchase school supplies and new sneakers for my kids, but beyond that, what’s the point? It’s still shorts weather, for Pete’s sake. Until this week, it was hot. Really hot. Some schools in our area even canceled classes, or at least had half-days during the heat wave, but ours didn’t.

Batavia schools fortunately have air conditioning, but their buses don’t. Riding home in a hot tin can left Holly looking more flushed than a hard soccer game.

“Sometimes it’s hotter on the bus than it is outside,” she reported.

Whose big idea was it, anyhow, to have the kids get back to school so early? Oh, well; I’m sure they had a good reason. But does that reason still exist?

Someone in my yoga class suggested it might have something to do with farming. (Or maybe that was daylight saving?)

Well, if the heat – and the mere fact that it’s still summer – aren’t reasons enough to begin school later, consider the lowly ragweed. I don’t have a clue what it looks like, but this stuff is brutal. My pharmacist schooled me on the fact that ragweed blooms like clockwork the 15th of every August. Which means that allergy-sufferers are, then, particularly miserable for a good two to three weeks, also like clockwork.

I don’t know how many suffer from allergies, but there are lots of us, kids and teachers included. What teacher or child needs to be in school while they’re dealing with this nonsense, especially if they’re hardly sleeping at night because of congestion?

Some actually miss a few critical, early days when they feel particularly lousy and even feverish, while others tough it out at school, occasionally coughing up a lung from that darned post-nasal drip.

Hmmm, perhaps that’s why the schools always ask us to supply so many boxes of Kleenex every year. You know, so the kids don’t have to wipe their noses on, well, whatever. August is too early for long sleeves, after all. And if they’re really desperate and resort to using antihistamines to deal with it? Well, even the “non-drowsy” formulas aren’t, really.

Start school after Labor Day and you won’t have this problem. By this time, ragweed is past its prime and we’re at least getting a grip on our symptoms.

Some will argue that school needs to begin in August because so many lifeguards return to college. Well, I think that’s silly, too.

Those kids should also be allowed to have real summers – summers that aren’t cut so short. Whatever the arguments for maintaining the status quo, there’s no question, adjustments would need to be made. But I think they’d be worth it. Some adults (oh no, not I) may be willing to cash in their summers, but why should our kids?

• Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Noah and Holly. Contact her at editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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