School Board to Nix Late Start Pilot, Reinstates Early Release
by Kristen Deadwyler, City-Times Staff
After students, parents, and teachers expressed distaste for the Late Start pilot the district implemented this spring semester, the board approved the reinstatement of the Early Release program.
Concerned with allowing teachers and staff enough professional development time, the school board decided to use a late start program starting in the spring of 2012. The pilot for the Late Start program consisted of four days in which the school day started later, and lunch periods ran shorter, allowing for teachers to collaborate, attend meetings, and prepare their classrooms. Had the pilot been successful, the program would have consisted of ten days to occur throughout the 2012-13 school year.
The district conducted a survey, asking 963 parents, 242 staff, and 1,059 students for their opinions on the Late Start program. Of the parents polled, 36.6% preferred the Early Release day program, while only 27.3% preferred the Late Start. Staff and students agreed: 62% of staff, and 69.2% of students, preferred the Early Release program. When asked why they preferred the Early Release program, parents felt frustration towards the schedule change, students were against the late lunches, and staff felt neither option was enough time, but that early releases provided more time in comparison.
After reviewing the negative input, the district decided to reinstate the Early Release program.
Superintendent Weninger expressed the districts’ reasoning: “We viewed it as a pilot. We listened pretty carefully to students, staff, and parents. The Late Start, as a pilot, worked, it did not work to the satisfaction of our stakeholders, so we’re pulling that back.”
However, some board members and teachers were concerned there still wouldn’t be enough development time.
T.J. Pharo-Kozak, Jefferson Elementary teacher, expressed her concern over class preparation time at Monday’s school board meeting.
“We used to have a voice in the decisions of the calendar and how things happened. Just because collective bargaining is gone doesn’t mean a practice that benefits students should go as well.”
Board member John Zellmer mirrored Pharo-Kozak’s concern.
“I know how much preparation goes on in the organization of a classroom. I would hope our teachers have adequate time.”
When asked if mandatory meetings were cutting into class preparation time, Superintendent Weninger noted the importance of holding the State mandatory trainings: “These are not just meetings to hold meetings.”
The program will consist of six early release days, and two full “institute days”. The board will review the decision again in the winter/spring of the 2012-13 school year.
“We have done the very best that we can trying to prepare for the school year,” stated Weninger. “We know we [have] to do it differently.”