Henrico County demonstrates how to adjust school schedules

Other school districts should study the way that Henrico County decided to adjust school schedules for the coming year. The plan was approved by the school board March 22. I have copied the information from one of the agenda items for the work session that was held before the regular school board meeting.

The following document, titled “Adjusting School Day 2,” is one of the attachments included in the agenda item details for “Adjusting School Day Schedules for 2012-2013,” March 22, 2012, Work Session, 2:30 p.m.

Adjusting HCPS School Day Schedules

The Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS) plans to adjust current school schedules for the 2012-2013 school year. Adjustments are necessary in order to:

• increase instructional time for students, specifically for elementary students,

• provide additional planning time for elementary teachers, and

• improve transportation efficiencies (arrival and departure times).

The school division is seeking input on proposed changes so that adjustments will result in the best educational programming possible and be supportive of our school community. After reviewing the information that follows, stakeholders are encouraged to provide feedback on the proposed changes using the survey link at the end of this information.

Rationale

Time to Teach

Over the years, required curricular and program demands have increased significantly and continue to do so. Many elementary teachers have said there is just not enough time in the school day to teach everything that is required.

The school division conducted a survey of the 17 largest school divisions in Virginia and found that of the 17 divisions, HCPS has the shortest elementary school day. The HCPS elementary day is 5:45 hours (excluding lunch) while the average of the 17 districts is 6:10 hours. When considered over a 180-day school year, students in elementary schools in those school divisions have a significant advantage over Henrico students.

Time to Plan

Elementary teachers in HCPS need additional planning time. Unlike their secondary school counterparts, there is very little time during the school day to support planning, preparation, and collaboration with colleagues so they must depend on time before and after school. Currently, the time before and after school has many teachers supervising students when they could be planning because the current schedule/system requires double bus runs. Students who arrive early or stay late because of a double bus run must be supervised and this encroaches on teachers’ planning. It is also lost time for students who spend time waiting for school to start or to be picked up by a bus in the afternoon.

Time to Transport

Currently, the elementary, middle, and high school start and dismissal times are very tight and do not allow adequate time between each level to transport students to and from school on time. When an elementary bus route runs late, it impacts the middle and high school bus pick-up and delivery times. There are students whose instructional day is shortened due to the fact they do not arrive to school on time. This further compounds the time available for instruction for many students.

Impact on Middle and High Schools

Middle and high school students currently have a school day that is longer than the Virginia Department of Education requires. Shortening the day by five or ten minutes will have little impact on current programming. The proposed changes are welcome by secondary principals as students who are currently arriving and departing school late would be eliminated; therefore, the time currently available for instruction would be enhanced, offsetting the reduction in their school day.

Proposed Solution

Widespread Input

The school division sought input from the following groups toward seeking a solution for the challenges noted above:

• a task force of elementary teachers,

• a task force of elementary parents,

• middle and high school principals,

• elementary principals, and

• key leaders in central office.

Plans are to meet with daycare providers in the next few weeks to gather input from their perspective on proposed changes and for their planning purposes.

Staggered Elementary Schedule and Adjusted Middle and High School Day

Moving to a staggered start for elementary schools will resolve many of the issues currently faced. This means that elementary schools across the division would follow one of two schedules. Proposed school-day schedule changes follow:

Elementary Group 1:                   7:40 a.m. to 2:10 p.m. (adds 15 minutes)

Elementary Group 2:                  8:10 a.m. to 2:40 p.m. (adds 15 minutes)

Middle School:                             8:35 a.m. to 3:10 p.m. (less 10 minutes)

High School:                                 9:00 a.m. to 3:55 p.m. (less 5 minutes)

Teacher Contractual Day

Teachers are paid for 8.0 hours per day. The minimum work day for teachers is currently 7.25 hours. Moving to a tiered system would adjust the minimum day to 7.5 hours. The contractual day would be as follows:

     Level                                 Current                                   Proposed

Elementary: Group 1        7:20 a.m. to 2:35 p.m.             7:20 a.m. to 2:50 a.m.

Elementary: Group 2        Not applicable                         7:50 a.m. to 3:20 p.m.

Middle                                 8:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.             8:05 a.m. to 3:35 p.m.

High                                     8:35 a.m. to 3:50 p.m.            8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Benefits of Proposed Changes

There are many benefits associated with adopting the proposed schedule. Most, if not all, double bus runs would be eliminated. Students would arrive and depart school on time, and many elementary teachers would be freed from supervising students before and after school so the time could be devoted to planning and preparation. Additionally, the elementary school day would be extended by 15 minutes providing more instructional time for students and a more competitive advantage. Morning bus routes would not begin any earlier than they currently start.

[This agenda item ended with a survey link to provide feedback on the proposed changes.]

See also Henrico elementary schools to have longer day and Henrico teachers requested a longer elementary school day.

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