South Middleton School Board could be ready to vote on March 18 on a proposal to modify student arrival and class start times.
The latest version, Proposal D, could come up for a review before the full board Monday, during a regular planning meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. in the district administrative wing at the Iron Forge Elementary School.
The biggest change between Proposal C and Proposal D is a 10-minute shift in the dismissal time for elementary school students from 3:40 p.m. in the prior version to 3:30 p.m. in the latest version, said Melanie Shaver-Durham, district director of curriculum, instruction, assessment and federal programs.
She briefed the board’s curriculum and instruction committee Monday on efforts to create a dedicated time slot in the dail schedule for teacher collaboration and professional development.
The earlier dismissal time was in response to parental concerns that 3:40 p.m. would have made for too long of a day for elementary students enrolled at the W.G. Rice and Iron Forge buildings. Even with the earlier time, it’s going to be a rolling dismissal for students due to the timing of bus departures from each school, Shaver-Durham said.
Efficient bus routes
She said Nicole Weber, interim business manager, has talked with Rohrer Bus Service about the need to increase the efficiency of school busing in South Middleton School District. To make the initiative work, the district is trying to get a commitment from Rohrer on a 45-minute turnaround on the elementary and secondary school bus runs.
Board member Stacey Knavel said it is vital the district releases school bus routes and schedules as soon as possible so that families can properly prepare for the time adjustments.
To avoid a repeat of past problems, committee chair Elizabeth Meikrantz suggested getting a fresh set of eyes involved in reviewing bus routes and schedules. She said this needs to be balanced with the conventional wisdom about what would work for South Middleton School District.
The district is leaning on the recommendations of Rohrer because it has the expertise on bus transportation, Shaver-Durham said.
In her briefing Monday, she also addressed concerns families had about the student arrival time at the Cumberland-Perry Area Vocational Technical School.
Under Proposal D, students from South Middleton would depart Boiling Springs High School between 7:50 and 7:55 a.m. and arrive at the vocational school between 8:10 and 8:15 a.m. or five to 10 minutes later than the current arrival time. This would still fall within acceptable parameters for South Middleton students to avoid missing the most important content, Shaver-Durham said. The district has received reassurances on this from the CPAVTS principal and executive director.
Other areas impacted
Each school district served by Cumberland-Perry has its own transportation schedule and challenges with time and distance. The vocational school is used to structuring its curriculum around a rolling schedule of student arrival times, Shaver-Durham said.
Teacher arrival times under Proposal D would be 8 a.m. for the district’s elementary schools and 7 a.m. for the district’s secondary schools. In each case, there will be 45 minutes reserved for teacher collaboration time. Elementary students would arrive at 8:50 a.m. with classes starting at 9 a.m. while secondary students would arrive at 7:45 a.m. with classes starting at 8 a.m.
District administrators are working on a plan to maximize the use of the 45-minute per day time slot. Aside from activities to build collaboration, the time slot could be used for faculty meetings, book studies and staff training opportunities, Shaver-Durham said. She added having teachers do the same thing each day of the teaching cycle would not be a productive use of that time and the benefit of working closer together would fizzle out.
Knavel addressed concerns that scheduling collaborative time would take away from teacher-student instruction time. Think of it as a long-term investment that would result in greater efficiency in the classroom and less busy work, Knavel said.
Tracy Mersch, a high school English teacher who attended the Monday committee meeting, said faculty members generally are not opposed to or upset over the time changes in Proposals C or D. But there has been discussions surrounding the resource period at the high school.
“Some people really want to keep the resource period at 45 minutes,” she said. “Some people would be just as happy if there was no resource period.” Mersch believes keeping it would be necessary to maintain student clubs. Proposal D would keep that period in the middle of the school day but reduce the time to 30 minutes.
In the lead-up to the March 4 meeting, Shaver-Durham plans to meet again with department heads to get their input prior to releasing a survey to students to get their feedback on how they use the resource period.