A dash of science fiction always seems to make life more interesting. At last week’s Committee of the Whole meeting, Missoula County Public Schools Superintendent Alex Apostle held a captive audience while presenting his vision for schools in the 21st century. It’s not quite the Jetsons, but you can bet we’re leaving Beaver Cleaver far behind.

Apostle’s dream has Missoula schools embracing the latest and greatest in modern technology. He described individual computer terminals instead of desks and touch-sensitive SMART Boards instead of white boards. Students of the future will not, apparently, be sniffing dry-erase markers.

The presentation made an impression on committee members, but we couldn’t help noticing a few things missing from Missoula’s School of Tomorrow.

Like giant reader board signs. Earlier this year students from Sentinel High School fought for one of these promotional beacons, smartly bypassing local zoning laws. Administrators claimed it was an excellent teaching tool for civic policy, and who are we to argue? Never mind that fussy neighbors find the flashing lights a tad intrusive. They’ll grow to love ’em, just like they have Lil Wayne ringtones.

With kids tapped into the Internet during class, the School of Tomorrow should also allow concerned parents to instantly address questionable classroom content. When little Danny chooses The Story of Stuff among his five favorite movies on Facebook, mom can immediately Tweet about how she’ll be petitioning against the film at the next school board meeting. Don’t consider it an invasion of the classroom or an affront to dedicated teachers—come on, censorship’s so 20th century. Let’s call it advanced parent-teacher networking instead.

Students, meanwhile, will embrace the School of Tomorrow for our proposed four-day school week. Pioneers like Arlee Elementary have already adopted the truncated schedule for next fall, and West Glacier Elementary announced recently that it’s also exploring the format. We like the idea not just for its money-saving measures, but also because it offers stressed-out students more free time for sports, extra-curriculars and the latest PlayStation platform. Save your “I used to walk 10 miles through the snow and study eight days a week” stories for the schools of yesterday.

We see bright horizons for Missoula County Public Schools. Apostle’s vision, perhaps combined with our suggestions, may help the district avoid declining enrollment and the resulting budget concerns. But Apostle can’t do this alone. So, our final suggestion is that you keep an eye out for the May 5 school board elections. Who you elect may just make Missoula’s School of Tomorrow a reality.
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