Friday, August 13, 2010

TOP STORY > >School bell rings earlier and later

Leader staff writer

Pulaski County Special School Dis-trict elementary students will now start their school day later than they did last year, while middle school and high school students will start earlier.

According to Tim Clark, president of the PCSSD Board of Education, elementary students will now have a later start time, while middle- and high-school students’ start times will be earlier.

The new schedule will lengthen the school day by 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the afternoon.

Some students will be getting on a bus as early as 6 a.m. with the new schedule.

When schools open for students on Thursday, classes will start at 8:30 a.m. for elementary students and end around 4 p.m. — making their school day 30 minutes longer.

Older students will start 7:30 a.m. and get out an hour earlier, around 3 p.m. — provided an injunction filed by the teachers union isn’t acted on before school starts.

This is opposite from what the board decided at its meeting last week.

Deb Roush, spokeswoman for the district, said parents were upset with the idea of an early start time for elementary students, and the district listened and reversed the times.

“We have been reviewing our options related to our bell schedules for months, and there was much to consider including bus routes, costs and the fact that we had our youngest students having to get up so early,” said Tim Clark, president of the PCSSD school board.

“One of the biggest changes is that elementary students, who will now start at approximately 8:30 a.m., will be able to be dropped off as early as 7:30 a.m. for breakfast,” he said. “This will accommodate our parents who have to be at work by 8 a.m.”

Depending on the particular elementary school, the day will end between 3:50 and 4:05 p.m.

Clark said after-school programs for elementary students will be offered until 4:30 p.m. to allow parents extra time to pick up their students.

Charles Hopson, the district’s superintendent, said the extra time in the morning and afternoon will be used for enrichment and intervention opportunities.

“Yes, there will be a cost associated with putting staff in place to provide supervision and additional educational opportunities.

But if we’re going to put students first, this is what we need to do,” Hopson said.

The district’s middle and high schools will now begin classes at 7:30 a.m., with doors opening at 7 a.m. for breakfast, Hopson said. Depending on the school, the day will end between 2:55 and 3:05 p.m.

“This will help our older students who have to work in the afternoons or have after-school activities,” he added.

The change in the bell schedule will not lengthen the school day for teachers, Marty Nix, president of the Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers, pointed out.

“This is a parent issue that will affect students and teachers’ ability to teach effectively,” she said.

Hopson said he understands these changes are being made close to the start of school.

“We have been exploring every possibility related to scheduling options. These are complicated, logistical issues that involve many aspects of the district. The bottom line is, at the end of the day, we have done what is in the best interest of our kids.”

Bus schedules will be available early next week on the district’s website,