For Our Children: More Data, Engagement Needed Before Extending the Elementary School Day
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Stevens Point Elementary School Parents, Guardians, and Teachers:
My name is Jason D'Acchioli, and I'm a parent of a student in the Stevens Point School District. I'm reaching out to you to discuss something that's going to affect each of us in the very near future--changing the length of the elementary school day. Here’s the main idea: the district wants to increase the elementary school day by 20 minutes. Second bell would be at 8:45AM, and classes would end at 3:35PM. (Teachers are contracted to be in the building from 8AM to 4PM, regardless of time changes.) On the surface this sounds like a great idea: increase the amount of teacher-student contact, and students will learn more! Teachers will be able to incorporate more language arts into the daily curriculum. Point Schools will be better aligned with the surrounding school districts, who all have longer days. All of the above was discussed at a district Educational Services meeting in February. But is this the only option for our children and teachers? Is this the best option for our children and teachers? And, should it pass, are you comfortable with it being implemented this coming September?
My own research has shown that, in terms of Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction’s District Report Cards, the Stevens Point School District performs at the same level as, or better than, all but two of the surrounding districts—even though our district has a shorter school day. The main argument for extending the day is that more time is needed for language arts instruction. But as parents and guardians we’ve seen little evidence presented that an extended school day is needed, and more importantly, is needed as urgently as September 2017. I’m asking the Stevens Point School District School Board to delay implementation of any changes to the school day for at least one year, or until conclusive evidence is provided that lengthening the school day is the best, and most innovative, approach to providing our children with the best possible education.
There are many important questions that have not been answered. For our children—how will additional instruction time affect their developing minds and bodies? How will the extra time be used, since each elementary school in the district is slightly different? What types of standards will be put in place to make sure there is consistency across the district? Are we setting our elementary schools up to fight against each other, rather than work with our students? For our teachers—what happens to their daily preparation time for educating our children? Some argue our teachers have plenty of “free” time during the day—when students go to lunch, or to music, gym, art, library, or phys ed. But that time is not necessarily curricular prep time. As a parent volunteer, I’ve seen those “free times” used to work on interventions, or to get students dressed and ready for cold weather. Now think about this—if the proposed new second bell time is 8:45AM, the first bell would ring at 8:35. If that’s the case, teachers have had most of their morning “prep time” cut even further. Given the number of unanswered questions, as well as the absence of an explanation for the urgency of this plan, I’m asking the Stevens Point School Board to delay voting on this plan for at least a year, so that further study, vetting, and engagement can be performed.
I urge you to sign this petition if you believe more time is needed to make a decision that may, or may not, have a lasting positive impact on our children and teachers.
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