Commentary by Clint Confehr
An accomplished lady recently reminded me that big events, including Covid-19 and its quarantine, create winners, losers and opportunity. People were forced to change, but adjustments can be good.
Nashville-area motorists noticed a dramatic reduction in traffic jams because of the quarantine and more people working from home for employers who continued business. School closures forced parents to spend more time with their children. Aren’t those worthwhile unintended consequences?
America’s agrarian economy framed school calendars, but times have changed. Year-round school was available as close as the Franklin Special School District. It’s not the perfect model, but it’s worth examining. How about year-round school with alternating schedules? Have two class shifts: One on Monday, Wednesday and Friday one week; and Tuesday and Thursday the next. During off days, students could do homework, instead of in the evening when families ought to be together and parents might be too tired to think through homework assignments.
Many parents found it difficult to work and care for children during the quarantine, but that’s when churches, community groups, nearby relatives and neighbors pitch in to help parents whether they were at home or working an essential job.
At least two citizen groups, and probably many educators, worry about what it’s going to be like when when schools reopen, presumably in the fall. There are plenty of studies on how much students forget during a summer break, and time off during holidays. Summer school is always a option. Now, there’s an opportunity for substantive change for a year-round schedule.
Traffic jams during rush hours cost commuters time, gas money and lost wages. Frustrated commuters probably aren’t the most productive workers once they get to the office. Some business leaders have realized increased productivity from telecommuting employees. They might need less office space, thereby cutting costs with a move, or not moving to new quarters if and when business grows.
There are predictions Covid-19 will create a new normal. The part of Nashville’s economy depending on tourism won’t be normal until the end of this year, if then, according to one hospitality industry leader.
Tourists hate traffic jams as much as anyone. Reduce traffic and maybe wider roads won’t need funding. More family time might increase parents’ involvement in education. Teachers should like that.
Is it a reach too far? Why not try to grasp the opportunity?