Chances are a learning curve is likely when South Middleton School District rolls out its changes to student start and dismissal times early next school year.
“I don’t have any doubt that despite the incredible vetting, it’s not going to go perfectly smooth,” school board member Elizabeth Meikrantz said Monday. “I think we have to be aware that this is going to be a work in progress.”
She said district administrators have done much to ease the anxiety and concern felt by parents and teachers when the time change proposal was introduced in January. The initial draft prompted hundreds of local residents to brave a light snow to attend a community meeting led by Superintendent Matthew Strine and Director of Curriculum and Instruction Melanie Shaver-Durham.
Two months of gathering input and making adjustments culminated Monday when the board approved the changes. The district initiated the process so that secondary students could start later in the day to optimize the hours when they are most alert and so that teachers and administrators could have time built into their daily schedule to collaborate more in support of student achievement.
In discussing the motion, board members singled out Shaver-Durham for the pivotal role she played in the process. “She worked hard on this,” Stacey Knavel said. “She was committed to working out the issues.”
“She genuinely listened,” Meikrantz said.
The board voted on the changes in Proposal D, which Shaver-Durham said accomplishes both of the main goals and addresses concerns brought up by proposals A, B and C.
The initial drafts called for an earlier start time for elementary students that worried families that children would be out in the dark at bus stops. There was also concern the time changes could interfere with student participation in athletics and after-school activities.
The early proposals also called for the high school resource period to be moved from the middle to the end of the day when there is a preference among many students for the status quo.
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Proposal D would allow for a 30-minute resource period compared to the current time slot of 40 minutes. The district last week conducted a survey of Boiling Springs High School students that included a question on how long to make the resource period. Those results have yet to be reviewed.
Strine said Monday the resource period is not static and the district has the flexibility to add up to five more minutes by reducing the time set aside for the other blocks.
Under the revised schedule, arrival time will be five minutes later from the current 8:45 a.m. to the revised 8:50 a.m. for students enrolled at the W.G. Rice and Iron Forge elementary schools.
For them, classes will begin at 9 instead of 8:55 a.m. and the dismissal time will be five minutes later at 3:30 instead of 3:25 p.m.
Students at Yellow Breeches Middle School and Boiling Springs High School will arrive at 7:45 a.m. next school year or 30 minutes later than the current 7:15 a.m.
That half-hour difference will carry over to the start of classes each day from the current 7:30 a.m. to the revised 8 a.m., but the dismissal time for secondary students will remain at 2:45 p.m.
The revised schedules include a daily 45-minute collaborative time for elementary and secondary teachers that could be immediately before the arrival of students and the start of classes.
The time revisions will also change the district bus schedule. Starting in 2019-20, the first elementary bus stop will be at 7:50, a five-minute difference from the current 7:45 a.m.
Meanwhile, the first secondary bus stop will be almost an hour later next school year from the current 6 a.m. to the revised 7 a.m.