Community takes a second look at "late start Tuesdays"
Students in the Lake Tahoe Unified School District will be arriving home this week with parent surveys regarding the scheduling of school staff development time.
For the past four months, a committee of parents, teachers, administrators and community members have met to re-evaluate the current “late start Tuesdays.”
Slightly more than an hour each Tuesday morning is now set aside for training and collaboration among the district’s K-8 teachers – without students. Concerns, however, have been raised regarding once-a-week morning child care and the potential lack of parental supervision for children with working parents.
“The district realizes it throws families off the normal schedule – we want to keep an eye on that and balance needs,” said Al Tahoe Principal and committee member Jim Watson. “We also see collaboration time as absolutely necessary – improvements are significant in schools that have time set aside for teachers to review curriculum, discuss improvements and implement change.”
Parent and committee member Duane Wallace said portions of the evaluating group wanted to be reassured that the teachers’ time was being used productively.
“We found out that just like most companies, in order to be successful, people need time to collaborate – it’s a valuable thing,” Wallace said. “But the question is, ‘When should it take place?’ People don’t want to leave their kids alone, but some have to get to work by 8 a.m. I think collaboration is important, but it should be done in such a way that our kids are not in danger.”
The committee reviewed dozens of options, said Assistant Superintendent Barbara Davis, with several goals in mind: no loss of instructional time for students, improved student achievement, meeting parent scheduling and child care concerns and providing collaborative training time for teachers at all grade levels, including four times a year at the high school.
“Eliminating that collaboration time was never an option – a well-trained teacher is the single most important variable in student achievement,” Davis said. “I think if parents knew how valuable this is, they would be more supportive. The committee is convinced this is valuable time – now we’re interested in input from parents.”
To propose that the collaboration time take place after regular school hours is to suggest that nothing goes on after school, Watson said. Teachers spend endless hours preparing lessons, tutoring students and meeting with parents, however not everyone is available to gather after hours at the same time.
And, to offer staff meetings midday would simply be too costly, Watson added.
“A happy medium must be reached – the concerns of children, family and staff must be addressed,” said parent Harry Siegel. “The current late start program does not fulfill the needs of the majority.”
After four months of meetings, the committee has now come up with what they consider to be workable options. Obstacles considered included bus schedules, sports and event schedules and after school supervision duties for teachers.
Surveys listing the options are expected to be sent home to all K-12 parents this week. In addition, a community forum is scheduled for March 25 at 6 p.m. in the district board room. The committee is then expected to make a recommendation to the board in April.
“We keep hearing about proposed legislation to eliminate staff collaboration days during the school year,” said Al Tahoe teacher and committee member Loreen Norberg. “That’s even more of a reason for us to hold on to this productive time to share ideas for student success. The district has given us guidelines on how to spend this time, like recent discussion on the language arts and math standards.”
“Schools are complex these days,” Watson said. “We’re constantly faced with ongoing challenges – it’s an incredible burden for teachers to keep up with new requirements. It takes a lot of training to keep everything operating smoothly.”
NOTE: THERE ARE TWO BREAK-OUT BOXES HERE
What: Community Forum
Topic: LTUSD staff development schedule options
When: March 25
Where: LTUSD Board Room, 1021 Al Tahoe Blvd.
Staff development schedule options include:
— Status quo late start- Continue late start as it currently exists, although the day of the week may differ depending on survey results. STHS would start late four times per year.
— Early out and late start- STHS would start at approximately 9:30 a.m., four times a year. K-8 students would be dismissed early each week, approximately one hour early for elementary students and an hour and a half early for middle school students, in order to facilitate bus schedules.
Rationale: High school students would be dismissed in time for after school activities or supervision of younger siblings. Early out for K-8 students allows teachers to meet without the imposed ending time that currently exists.
— Minimum day- Early dismissal of approximately two hours – similar to those before vacations or during parent conferences for K-12 students. High school students would have a minimum day four times a year, and K-8 students once a week. The remainder of school days would be lengthened by 10-15 minutes.
Rationale: This represents the most beneficial option for teachers, as their planning time would expand while student instructional time would remain the same. However, supervision for students released early may be problematic for some parents.
— Early out- Classes would end an hour early. K-8 students would have an “early out” once a week, and STHS four times a year.
Rationale: High school students would finish in time for after school activities or supervision of younger siblings. Early out for K-12 students allows teachers to meet without an imposed ending time, and adds planning time for high school teachers that does not currently exist.
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