Elementary and high schools likely to start their days earlier next year
A recommendation for bell time adjustments for 19 elementary schools and all high schools was presented to the Lee County School Board Tuesday during its briefing meeting.
The proposal is expected to be voted on in January.
Chief Academic Advisor Dr. Constance Jones explained that the bell time adjustment recommendations will remain under the “two-tier” system already in place.
The most significant change would be at the high school level. Jones explained that there would be an extra five minutes added to the beginning of the day and 20 minutes added to the end of the day.
Board member Jeanne Dozier said she is reluctant to add the extra five minutes in the morning because she believes tardiness will increase. She recommended that all of the 25 minutes be placed at the end of the day, so it does not have an impact on the students getting to school on time in the morning.
Jones said the 7:10 a.m. start instead of 7:15 a.m. would not affect students because they are already being dropped off at 6:50 a.m. She explained that it gives them enough time to get a bite to eat for breakfast, along with having enough time to get to class.
“If we add five more minutes at the end of the day we will have a domino effect,” Jones said about transportation.
The district’s goal for high school students is to try and preserve the eight courses that are already being offered during the day to provide students with various options. The adjusted bell times would also provide 80-minute block scheduling for students, which would also provide teachers with a 40-minute planning period during their day.
The extra 20 minutes at the end of the day would also give the students an advisory time period in the middle of their day. Jones said this is helpful for students because they can schedule student activities during the day instead of after school is let out.
“It is a positive thing for the students,” she said. “It gives them a brain break close to lunch period.”
Jones said she believes the offer of eight options to high school students has contributed to why 13 of the 15 high schools in the district earned a school grade of an A this year.
Dozier said that she “would like for us to look at all options and that is my personal wish” because the high school students would experience the greatest impact by the time adjustment.
Jones explained that the elementary schools that are paired with the high schools on the bus schedule would experience bell adjustments to ensure the hour and half time span that is needed between bus delivery times.
The 19 elementary schools that begin at 9:15 would experience a bell time adjustment at the beginning and end of their day of 10 minutes. Jones explained that those elementary schools would still have the same amount of time for their instructional day, but school would start at 9:25 a.m. and end at 3:40 p.m.
Jones went on to state that their goal is to add 15 minutes to the middle school day as well because the students would benefit from the additional contact time as well.
Final approval for the bell adjustments is expected to be made by the school board at the Jan. 11 board meeting.
The school board approved the 2011-2012 instructional calendar during its action meeting Tuesday night. Since the district is an A district, they had the option of beginning school at an earlier date. School will start on Aug. 8 and end on May 24.
Board member Jane Kuckel said although she feels the Calendar Committee did a wonderful job, she was thrilled about one aspect of the calendar – breaks during the district’s marking periods.
“I have been asking this for years,” she said.
Kuckel explained that now with the new calendar, students will take their semester exams before they go on their winter break.