Janesville32.2°

Evansville School District piloting late-start days

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GINA R. HEINE
February 12, 2011
— Students in the Evansville School District are starting school 90 minutes late one to two days a month in a new pilot program that allows teachers group time to focus on curriculum.

Buses run on their normal schedules on late-start days, and supervision is provided for students who arrive at the regular time.


Parents, however, are worried about potential scheduling problems and day care costs if the district continues the program next year—possibly without free supervision.


District Administrator Heidi Carvin said the district is seeing how the collaborative time works and will survey teachers and parents, likely in April, before deciding what to do next year.


Districts across the state have been conducting late-start or early-release days for years, Carvin said, and student supervision when classes are not in session is almost always the parents' responsibility.


The high school started two late-start days a month in fall, and kindergarten through fifth grades are doing one late-start day a month from January to May, she said.


While high school students can be left alone if they arrive early, elementary-aged children either need childcare or to have their parents alter work schedules to accommodate the change.


Since the district started the program mid-year at the elementary schools, teachers provide activities for students during the 90-minute events, Carvin said. Parents are responsible for transportation if they don't want to send their children to school early, she said.


Teachers use the time to talk in the same room about curriculum mapping and response to interventions, Carvin said.


The potential for changes to the program next year concerns parent Jami Becker. Next year, she will have three elementary-aged students who would need childcare on late-start days if the school doesn't provide it.


Based on conversations she's had with other parents, Becker doesn't think most parents understand how they could be impacted if the program continued next year.


"This may have a huge impact on working parents both financially and logistically," she said.


Becker wants parents to talk to principals and administrators and attend board meetings because she worries few people will respond to a survey.


Teachers are focused on mathematics during the professional development, Carvin said, so teachers who aren't involved in that subject are able to provide group activities for students.


"Whether or not we're able to continue that as we add more curriculum areas is one question we have (to answer)," she said.


Seventy percent of elementary-aged children came to school at the regular time during the first late-start day in January, Carvin said.


"That's an indication to me that our parents really do need the school day at its normal time," she said.


The district will look at how to do that in a cost-effective way to meet parents' needs—if the program continues, Carvin said.


The middle school is not participating in the pilot program because the school's structure provides teachers with common planning time, she said.



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