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High schools opt to keep bell times

By Staff | Jun 18, 2011

Eleven out of 13 district high schools will ask to waive their 40-minute planning periods at Tuesday’s board meeting, therefore keeping the same instructional and bell times next year instead of the increased and adjusted bell times prviously approved to begin in August.
Chief Human Resource Officer Dr. Greg Adkins said the bell times for high schools this year allowed for 6 hours and 30 minutes of student instructional time, or the amount of time students are on campus.
In January, the school board approved an adjusted bell time to increase the amount of time that students were to be in school to 6 hours and 55 minutes. The adjustment was made to provide an extra 40 minutes of planning for teachers while the students were in school.
That adjustment for high school bell times included a change from 7:15 a.m. to 7:10 a.m. and the afternoon bell times changed from 1:45 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.
“Eleven of the 13 high schools decided that they wanted to continue to utilize the same schedule and forego the planning for the instructional day,” Adkins said.
He said for the 11 high schools to take action with the approved bell times they had to vote as a school staff to waive that provision in the contract. Adkins said if there was a consensus of 80 percent, it would then go to the school board for its approval.
The schools in Cape Coral that reached a consensus include Ida Baker High School, Island Coast High School and Mariner High School. Other high schools in the district included Cypress Lake High School, Dunbar High School, Estero High School, Lehigh Senior High School, North Fort Myers High School, Riverdale High School, South Fort Myers High School and Fort Myers High School.
Cape Coral High School and East Lee County High School are the only two high schools in Lee County that did not reach an 80 percent consensus to approve a waiver. Their day will consist of a student instructional day of 6 hours and 55 minutes.
School Board member Mary Fischer said she thinks the schools wanted to waive the change in bell times because they had the majority vote from the staff.
“If they had a schedule that was working it was easier to maintain that than make big changes,” she said.
Fischer said adding time to the school day impacts sports and the students who have jobs, which she believes also played into the decision that staff made to waive the longer school day.
“It is a good idea to look at having the people that will be impacted in on planning stages,” she said about the schools having an opportunity to waive the approved bell times for this upcoming school year.
Mariner High School had 58 votes in favor of waiving the approved planning period and four votes against it. Island Coast High School had 73 votes in favor of the 6 hour 30 minute instructional day, while eight voted against it. Ida S. Baker High School had 82 staff members in favor of the current instructional day and five against it.
All three high schools in Cape Coral wanted to maintain the 6 hour 30 minute instructional day, so they could continue to offer block scheduling and higher level coursework.
If approved, Adkins said the 11 high schools would retain the same schedule of 6 hours and 30 minutes and the teacher planning would take place after the students leave campus. He said the board would likely uphold the waiver requests because they have seen improved graduation rates, increased achievement scores and an increase in school grades with the current schedule.
Fischer said she would certainly vote to support staff in having a schedule and time frame that works best for the students and staff.
Adkins said the middle schools are doing a mixture of things for their planning periods, which includes the teachers teaching six out of their seven period day to have one planning period.
Since art and music was restored in the elementary schools for the upcoming school year, it provides the teachers with an opportunity to have planning during that time period.