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Whitnall's Late Starts, Early Dismissals Remain Hot Topic

The School Board listened to the administration's proposal Monday, but several parents are not in favor of the changes.

In the coming weeks, the will be charged with weighing the wants and needs of the administration and teachers against the concerns of several district parents.

And it all boils down to altering a given school week by an hour or two.

Administrators, teachers and parents discussed the 2012-13 school calendar proposal for 1 hour, 40 minutes at Monday’s School Board meeting, two weeks in advance of the board possibly taking action on the proposal.

At the center of the discussion are professional learning communities, collaborative opportunities for teachers to meet on a more regular basis.

But allowing teachers time to work together would result in noticeable changes to what the Whitnall community is used to.

Under the newest proposal, start times for all three school levels – high school, middle school and elementary school – would change.

The high school day would shift from a 7:15 a.m. start and 2:18 p.m. dismissal to 7:45 a.m. start and a 2:45 p.m. dismissal. The middle school would shift from 7:45 a.m./2:50 p.m. to 8 a.m./3:05 p.m. and the elementary schools would move from 8:40 a.m./3:22 p.m. to 8:30 a.m./3:15 p.m.

But new start times don’t appear to be the most contentious aspect of the proposal. That distinction belongs to late starts and early dismissals. On the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month, the high school and middle school would start one hour later, and the elementary schools would experience an early release by an hour every Wednesday.

The late starts and early releases are required for professional learning communities, or PLCs, where a “team of educators interact on a consistent basis with a clear, far-reaching goal with maximizing student achievement the top priority,” according to the district’s presentation Monday.

PLCs could be made up of clusters of administrators and teachers who frequently work with the same or similar group of students, and allow those educators time to analyze and compare data, work to develop curriculum consistency, address individual strengths and needs of students, and collaboratively do a number of other tasks.

“(PLCs) allow you to be with your colleagues in real time, not two, three weeks later,” Edgerton Elementary principal Chris D’Aquisto said.

Several parents spoke Monday about how they saw the value of the PLCs, but dreaded the headaches late starts and early releases would cause for them. Parents with children in both middle and elementary school, for example, would be faced with both late starts and early releases two Wednesdays a month.

“We want the PLCs. We think it’s a great opportunity for teachers to get together and make better learning opportunities for our kids,” Whitnall parent Jeff Thiele said. “But the logistics stink. If they have been looking at this for seven years, why haven’t they worked out the logistics over that time.”

Among parents’ concerns is the potential financial burden placed on families that need children supervised during the late starts and/or early releases. The district said it would provide no- or low-cost options for students who have to be at school during the early releases or late starts.

Potential partnerships with the YMCA or the Greenfield Parks and Recreation Department were mentioned, and either option could include classes, activities or enrichment opportunities.

“We know that there will be required planning on the part of families,” Green said. “We want to be careful that we consider the community – they are our constituency and we want to make sure we're not hurting anybody.”

As of now, however, the district does not have any specific before- or after-school plans in place, which is raising concerns.

“No one has said that the concept is a bad idea,” board member Stephanie Richter said. “Everyone is excited about the kids getting more (individual) time … but the impact on families can’t be dismissed either. We’re asking them to make decisions without specific answers.”

“If you’re putting stress on the families like this, it’s not the best thing for the kids,” said Tim Boyle, a father of elementary school and middle school children. “It’s not a very simple, straightforward thing. The rush is a concern to me. … It’s better to take the time and do it right. Right now it’s, ‘Let us vote on it, pass it and we’ll get the details later.’ That’s not fair to us; that’s not the right approach to this.”

Editor's Note: To see what the Greenfield School District did in 2011 about its start times, . And for recent blog about school start times by a local expert, .

JL January 10, 2012 at 10:38 PM
Where's the 3rd option in the poll? the start and ending times are fine ,but whats up with this early release? its a big pain to schedule to get my kid during these early release days. Keep them at school and have them do something for that extra hour at school ?
David Pettersen January 10, 2012 at 11:01 PM
I think that the parents and the students, who happen to be most affected by this change should have their voice heard. If the start time, end time, early release and all of that worked well for the parents who have their kids at Whitnall High School, they should keep it that way. They should just leave it the way it is now and make it easy instead of getting complex which causes problems for families who have their kids in separate Whitnall schools.
Ann January 11, 2012 at 02:44 AM
The greenfield school distrist has early release on average every 2 weeks on a Wed for all grades - each school has their normal start time however, they get out 2 hours early - so if the school day normally ends at 4 they get out at 2 or if they normally get out at 2:30 they get out at 12:30. The elementary schools have Ebenezer child care that provided normal before/after school and I believe they have this for those that need it on the early release. I am not sure how the middle school works. Maybe Whitnall should as Greenfield how they do it - I was not sure how it was going to work when Grfld went to it but it works and it does not require a lot of changing since the start time stay the same only the end time does like Whitnall is proposing
cheryl baker January 11, 2012 at 02:57 PM
The Whitnall School District proposed change in start and end times as I understand it would eliminate ½ days and allow time for: >all teachers at either Elementary, Middle or High school to get an all staff meeting on a regular basis > all staff from elementary, middle and High school, to occasionally meet at the same time> This I believe is a benefit to our kids in the long run, even though it may put a temporary burden on us.

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