With many children on year-round schedules, the annual migration back to school has lost some of its significance in Utah. For some, homework and early bedtimes have been a part of life since late July.
However, approximately 447,000 students will be ending their summer vacations during the next two weeks. Students on traditional schedules in the Murray and Provo districts started last Monday, and the Salt Lake, Granite and Jordan districts, the state's largest, will begin Aug. 29.As always, the new school year poses challenges, not only to students, teachers and administrators, but to the community at large. This year offers its own unique ones.
In Davis County, people living within two miles of their schools will have to continue finding alternatives to taking the bus. District officials, citing budget concerns, decided during the summer to limit school buses to only those children who live too far away to walk. For the parents of children who have no sidewalks along the busy streets between their homes and school, this will mean rearranging schedules and organizing car pools.
All drivers should be especially aware of children and school zones during the next several weeks. But the need is especially acute in Davis County.
As usual, classroom sizes and teacher salaries are hot issues as the year begins. Fortunately, no strikes loom. Teachers in the Uintah District abandoned the only threatened walkout two weeks ago after coming to terms with administrators. Still, 10 of Utah's 40 districts will start the year without contracts. Put another way, that equates to 30 percent of the state's teachers.
Public education always will face challenges in a state that values large families while at the same time placing a great deal of importance on learning. All in all, however, the system works pretty well. Recently released American College Testing exam results show Utah students finishing higher than the national average in almost every category. Other tests have shown similar results over the years.
Continuing that success will require the cooperation of students, teachers, administrators, parents, motorists and all other state residents. It's a worthy goal as our children return to classrooms.