When U.S. presidential candidate Kamala Harris introduced a bill to the U.S. yesterday that would lengthen the school day by three hours—to better align with the traditional work day—it raised a bigger question: Does the school day need to be longer or should the work day be shorter?
It doesn’t appear that Harris is advocating for more instructional time, but rather for supervised extracurricular activities that would bridge the gap between the end of the school day (which is typically around 3 p.m.) and the end of the work day (traditionally around 5 p.m.). CNBC reports:
The bill proposes that the grant money go to extracurricular activities like electives in “music, arts, athletics, writing and engineering,” Harris’ senate office told CNBC. The extra time can also go toward dance and theatre programs, among other enrichment activities, the office said. But it leaves the scheduling of the day open to school administrators.
The pilot program would provide 500 schools that serve a high proportion of low-income families with up to $US5 ($7) million over five years to extend their hours. The schools would be open every day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., closing only on weekends, federal holidays or for emergencies.
That’s one way to deal with the discrepancy in time between most school schedules and work schedules. Or, as journalist Brendan O’Connor writes for Vice, we could shorten the work week instead:
When it comes to the gap between school and working hours, even if we accept the framing that “lost productivity” is what’s wrong with this situation—and not people being alienated from their families by their jobs—the solution is quite clearly to shorten the amount of time that parents (and everyone else) needs to spend working.
Whatever solution you prefer, the problem of bridging those hours is a real one for many parents. Not all schools offer before- or after-school care. Or if they do, the spots may be limited. And even if you get a spot, it may not be open during days reserved for professional development, parent-teacher conferences or other vacation and holidays not recognised by the federal government.
Sometimes a family member or neighbour can serve as a regular back-up, or sometimes parents can adjust their work schedules for better coverage. Sometimes kids can be bused from school to an off-site daycare option nearby. But for many families, especially during the elementary school years, child care before and after school can look less like a solid plan and more like plugging a hole on this day and springing a leak on the next day.
So tell us: How do you manage the hours when the kids are out of school but you’re still working? How do you think our school and work schedules could be better aligned?