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Less Homework Time, More Family Time

Thu, 09/26/2019 - 14:45

The Springs School has begun promoting family togetherness over homework for students.

Eric Casale, the longtime Springs principal, announced on Sept. 16 that teachers have agreed to refrain from assigning homework on the first Friday of each month so that students and their parents or guardians can enjoy a “family fun Friday” free of school obligations.

“This has been a topic of conversation for quite some time,” Mr. Casale said this week. “We hope that this is an opportunity for parents and children to get together, play board games, watch a movie, make dinner together or go out to dinner, and put away their cellphones and other electronics.”

Typically, he said, students get 10 minutes of homework per grade level. A second-grade student might have 20 minutes, while a sixth grade student might have an hour. The homework-free-Friday announcement also includes a mandate that students will not have to study for quizzes that would be given on Mondays.

Mr. Casale said the effort came out of Shared Decision Making Committee meetings and was originally inspired by the East Quogue School District’s initiative to do the same last year.

“We looked at the research and came to the conclusion that spending time together is critical for building family ties, lifelong memories, and an environment that helps build kids’ self-esteem and character,” he said.

Barbara Dayton, the school board president, said this week that “the board certainly supports what works best for kids and parents. I think it’s great. Homework certainly reinforces everything kids learn every day and it’s very valuable, but there are some times when you just don’t need to be doing homework. Encouraging kids to do something with their family is sort of a creative homework.”

In other Springs School Board news, Michael Henery, the business administrator, told the board the district has maintained its Aa2 bond rating with Moody’s Investors Service. He said Moody’s cited Springs’s “robust financial position, exceptionally light debt burden, and mid-range pension liability” as well as its “strong wealth and income profile and a healthy tax base.”

The Springs School District tax base is largely residential. Mr. Henery noted that median family income has decreased, down in 2018 to 102 percent of the national median family income, which, according to United States Census data, was $63,179. In 2014, that figure in Springs was 161 percent of the national median salary, which at that time was $73,298. Ms. Dayton observed that the hamlet’s population had jumped by about 1,400 since 2014, though the increase has leveled off more recently.

Mr. Henery said this week Springs has had an Aa2 bond rating for at least five years, but possibly even longer. “Most of the districts, unless they are in dire straits financially, seem to get a Aa2 rating,” he said. “It’s like the FICO score on a personal level. The higher you score, the lower the interest rate you pay on debt. If there’s any chance we can get up to Aa1, we may save a few percentage points on interest rates and save money for the taxpayers.”

The Springs School Board also formally approved borrowing money for two new vehicles: a full-size, 66-passenger school bus and a light-duty pickup truck. The total purchase, not to exceed $135,000, was approved by the community during the May 21 school budget vote. The pickup truck, Mr. Henery said this week, is for the custodians to use. It will replace an existing truck that is at least 20 years old and “is on its last legs,” he said.