Committee wants to add 20 minutes to high schools’ days

Tue, 02/16/2010 - 4:58pm
By: Ben Nelms

A few school systems around the state are shortening their school year to offset decreases in funding. So far, Fayette wants no part of an abbreviated instructional year.

Instead, Fayette County’s School Calendar/School Day Committee is recommending that the board maintain the 5-day-a-week, 180-day school year.

They are also recommending that high schools follow Sandy Creek’s example and include a 20-minute per day period to accommodate students’ instructional needs.

Assistant Superintendent and committee representative Sam Sweat said the group was not excited about going to a school year that did not include 180 days or having a school week of less than five days, though he did note that a few systems have done so.

Sweat cited examples such as Murray County that increased the school day by 60 minutes and decreased the number of days from 180 to 160.

Peach County is increasing the school day by two hours and decreasing the number of days to 147, Sweat said.

A third example was from Fulton County, where the school day next year will be increased by 10 minutes and the school year decreased to 177 days.

Sweat said that, specific to Fayette, each school day decreased would save $22,401 in fuel and utilities.

“We’re not looking at shortening the calendar. We feel we need to go five days a week and 180 days a year,” Sweat emphasized, adding that the only reason to lengthen the school day would be to meet the needs of students.

Sweat also said the committee recommended waiting to see what the General Assembly does with funding for 2011 before making any decisions about the school day issue.

In terms of meeting the needs of students, another committee recommendation suggested leaving the school days as they are for elementary and middle schools, but increasing the high school day by 20 minutes for enhanced academic learning for issues such as credit recovery, course remediation, graduation requirements and to allow each high school flexibility to determine when those minutes will be scheduled.

Under that scenario, if approved, the school day for high schools would begin at 8:20 a.m. instead of 8:40 a.m. and end at 3:20 p.m. as is currently the case.

The school day for elementary and middle schools would continue to run as they are now, from 7:45 a.m. to 2:20 p.m. and 8:20 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. respectively.

Fayette’s instructional minutes exceed the mandate by 9,000 to 14,000 minutes per year for grades K-5 and 6-8, while instructional minutes in grades 9-12 exceed the mandate by just over 2,000 per year, Superintendent John DeCotis said in a staff letter after the meeting.

Since the hours at the high school level are close to the mandated minimum, the committee recommended increasing the high school day by 20 minutes for instructional focus purposes beginning with the 2010-2011 school year, said DeCotis in a website report to school employees.

Sweat cited the example of Sandy Creek High School that several years ago added a 20-minute period at the end of the day and whose teachers have reported significant positive results from the move.

“Sandy Creek wanted to go to seven periods. The other high schools didn’t. Sandy Creek shaved a few minutes off each period to create the 20 minutes,” Sweat said, adding that the committee did not want to increase the day to seven full periods.

Sweat also said adding 20 minutes in the morning to extend the school day for high schools was preferential to shaving minutes off existing periods which, at some point, could potentially compromise instructional time for regular classroom periods.

DeCotis said the Sandy Creek program has resulted in higher test scores, increased graduation rates and decreased school disruptions.

Fayette County High School has also implemented a similar program and Starr’s Mill is ready to go with its own version of the 20-minute extension, Sweat said.

Board member Janet Smola during the discussion asked a question that could have potential linkage to other school day and school calendar considerations.

“If we increase the school day is that a set-up to decrease the number of days (in the calendar)?” Smola asked.

Sweat said that the only reason to lengthen the high school hours would be for enhanced academic purposes. Sweat also said he would get more input from teachers and students and report back to the board.

The discussion was followed by a few brief comments on transportation by Deputy Superintendent Fred Oliver, who said various issues pertaining to bus routes for elementary, middle and high schools will be reported on at the March meeting.

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Gene61's picture
Submitted by Gene61 on Wed, 02/17/2010 - 10:12am.

I like the idea. We drive my daughter to school in the morning simply due to the fact the bus is often early or late. Don't like the idea of my child waiting or rushing to catch the bus, when the driver can't arrive closer to the time we were told at the beginning of the year.

Second opinion, Ground the buses after the morning drop offs. Some drivers use the bus as a personal daily driver. I've seen a bus more than in my neighborhood parked outside my neighbors house being unloaded after a trip to Kroger etc. Cut back on the personal drop offs to houses unless the child is physically disabled. When I see a 17 year old picked up and dropped off at is home daily. While other kids stand in the weather waiting for their bus. Yet this same kid is out smoking in his driveway waiting for his disabled sister in the afternoon and often is alone at times taking care of her, while the mother is off partying until all hours.

It is so nice to see the bus sit there burning fuel when said kid isn't going to school ot takes his sweet time while the do not pass sign flashes. Burning fuel is costly, yet we the parents and taxpayers don't have the option to simply fill up without worry.

Gene61's picture
Submitted by Gene61 on Wed, 02/17/2010 - 3:07am.

Oh jeeze... Enough already

Submitted by g8trgrl on Wed, 02/17/2010 - 8:56am.

I am still not convinced 20 minutes more a day for high school is the best plan. Each school can configure the day as they want?

Robert W. Morgan's picture
Submitted by Robert W. Morgan on Wed, 02/17/2010 - 6:03am.

Every day I see empty or close to empty buses arriving at Booth and McIntosh and sometimes Huddleston - at the same time as the half-full ones arrive. Why not eliminate those buses which have no kids. If this were a business and the kids were customers - guess what would happen.

I sense that someone is going to ruin my day and quote some government mandate about how we must have (and the taxpayers pay for) bus rides for everyone.

Submitted by g8trgrl on Wed, 02/17/2010 - 8:54am.

I see the empty ones coming to school too, but they are full when they leave. I know of many parents who drive in the morning because the buses come into neighborhoods very early & people want that extra 20 minutes or so in the morning. My kid's bus is pretty empty in the morning, but 3 to a seat in the afternoon. Don't know how you fix that. If the county combines middle and high school bus riders, I am sure the buses will be even more empty. To make the 2 stops dropping off at schools the buses will have to make, they will probably pick up even earlier.

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