When we moved to East Penn a number of years ago, my wife and I were shocked to learn that all elementary students are dismissed early every Wednesday of the school year. Both of us work outside the home, so this quirk of the district calendar sent us scrambling to provide care for our daughter on all those Wednesday afternoons. We hired a babysitter some weeks, and a retired neighbor helped us out on other days. Since then, we’ve cobbled together something a little different each year, combining changes to our work schedules with daycare, babysitters, and help from friends and neighbors. Next year, however, might be different.
A New Wednesday Schedule
In response to growing concerns about half-day Wednesdays, the district administration has developed a proposal to make the elementary school day the same each day of the week. The main element of the plan is changing the daily schedule for both students and teachers. Students would start five minutes later (9:00am instead of 8:55am) and be dismissed ten minutes earlier most days (3:20pm instead of 3:30pm) and much later on Wednesdays (3:20pm instead of 1:30pm). Official teacher workdays would be the same length as they are now-- 7 hours and 20 minutes-- but would both begin and end earlier. Full details, including the proposed new kindergarten schedule, is available in the presentation the administration gave to the school board last Monday.
Advantages & Disadvantages
There are a number of potential advantages to this new schedule:
There are also a number of potential disadvantages to the change:
Some Recent History
The administration proposed changing the Wednesday afternoon schedule seven years ago, but the proposal was unanimously turned down by the school board at the time-- despite a survey that showed 71% of parents supported it. But that proposal differed from the current one in several crucial ways. First, the older proposal called for a later start time for students (9:15am instead of 9:00am). Second, it called for additional hiring that would have cost more than $472,000 annually (compared to a maximum of $70,000 for the current proposal). Given these differences, I believe this new proposal stands a much better chance with my colleagues on the school board than the one in 2007.
A Change for the Good?
A lot has changed in our schools and in our community in the generation since half day Wednesdays were first instituted! Weighing the advantages and disadvantages of this new proposal, I am cautiously optimistic that this change in schedule can be good for everyone: students, parents, teachers, and the district administration. The changes would definitely disrupt the carefully laid plans my wife and I have for getting our 3rd grader to and from school each day, at least in the short term. But I’m sure we could adapt. I want to hear from others before making up my mind on this issue, though. How do you view these proposed changes? Are there potential advantages and disadvantages I haven’t yet considered?