2.9.07

LABOR, LEISURE. A Northern Illinois University policy places the first day of classes for the fall semester on the fourth Monday of August. The latest we can start is August 28, in which case we're in for a week (as is the case this year) then to stand down for Labor Day, and the earliest is August 22, which means Corn Fest coincides with the end of the first week, and then we stand down for Labor Day. The policy has never made sense to me, as it means we get everybody in here, sometimes just for a week, then we stand down for a long weekend and begin tooling everybody up again after that. (That Blackboard doesn't give faculty the option of scratching non-attenders on day 1 generates additional perverse incentives.) The start of the fall semester before workplace fall begins, which is not limited to Illinois, has led to some public sentiment that summer oughtn't to be out for school.


After a swing toward starting the school year earlier, sometimes as early as the first week of August, momentum has grown in several states to begin school later in August or after Labor Day.


Pressure from parents and the tourism industry has pushed 11 states to limit how early school may begin, rankling school boards that want local control and more time to prepare students for state-mandated tests.


I believe that Wisconsin, which does a serious tourist business, now requires that common schools begin the fall session after Labor Day. Once upon a time, students more generally were prepared for tests, although in those less-prosperous times, those who didn't test very well might have been tracked differently. Tradeoffs.


The article notes that the earlier school starts present entertainment businesses that rely on summer help with staffing troubles.


Kennywood Park in suburban Pittsburgh is closed this week because about 85% of its seasonal staff has returned to school, says Mary Lou Rosemeyer, a spokeswoman for the 109-year-old amusement park.


"As schools start earlier, we don't have enough families coming to the park, and we don't have enough operators," Rosemeyer says.


Lower attendance is something new. Kennywood has long offered its seasonal workers bonuses to stay on through Labor Day, and it appears there will be a fall schedule including the Hallowe'en festivities many amusement parks offer.


The article is insufficiently detailed to note whether it is the school year in the former Warsaw Pact countries that contributes to the amusement parks' labor shortages.

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