I’ve always maintained that the Jews have it right: the year really does start in the fall, when school starts. The weather is part of this: I always find myself energized by crisp, cool fall days (though we don’t usually get those till well into October on the Gulf Coast). But there’s also the excitement and suspense of starting fresh with new teachers and classes. We moved so often in my childhood that I was often starting in a new school in a new town as well, so it was always a new adventure. Although I haven’t been a student for over 35 years and haven’t had a child in school since 1999, I still get a lift when school starts.
Buying new school supplies was always part of the fun. A new blue buckram–covered ring binder filled with fresh filler paper, new pencils and crayons and spiral notebooks—does it get any better than this? Alabama, along with many other states around the country, declared a tax holiday this past weekend that was also honored by the county and most municipalities. School supplies, books, clothing, and computer equipment up to certain dollar amounts were tax-exempt. Many families were able to shop tax-free for merchandise for adults as well as students, though some still grumbled about the timing of the holiday—so close to the beginning of school that many items, especially school uniforms, were in short supply.
For schools that start after Labor Day, as is traditional, a month would be plenty of lead time. But when the high schools in our county went to a semester block schedule, the school system adopted an insane calendar in order to finish the first semester before Christmas. The school year now ends in early May and starts in early August. Our students will be returning for the 2008–2009 school year this coming Monday, August 11 (the teachers have already been back all this week). Sweltering temperatures and copper thefts that have put many school air conditioning systems out of service will make this a trial for all concerned, I’m afraid.
Still, school must go on, and in fact this morning we got a bit of a break. A wild storm last night, with lashing winds and over an inch of rain, cooled things down considerably. It was in the low 70s when I walked this morning, with a fresh breeze that made it feel actually chilly. One walker I met commented that it felt “almost like fall.” Indeed it did. I encountered another reminder of the beginning of the new season (in education if not in nature) just around the corner from our house. As I approached, it became increasingly clear what I was looking at: two dozen yellow No. 2 pencils strewn across the street. Sadly, they had been run over and smashed into uselessness—perhaps a poor omen for someone’s fresh start!
Update: The spotted/invisible house (along with its outbuilding) is now entirely leaf-green with cream trim, blending even more invisibly into its surroundings. It does look quite nice, though.