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Parents of elementary school children in Muscogee County will have to wait to find out if their children will be required to attend school for an additional 30 minutes.
During its monthly work session Monday night, the school board discussed Superintendent David Lewis’ proposal that would add 30 minutes of instructional time to the elementary school schedule, starting classes 15 minutes earlier and ending classes 15 minutes later.
However, objections from several Muscogee County School Board members prompted Lewis to agree to indefinitely postpone the vote that was scheduled for May 20. The board directed him to have his administration gather input from parents and report the findings to the board.
Lewis said he would talk to principals to determine how to proceed.
If implemented, the proposal would affect the schedule for middle schools and high schools because of transportation issues. The proposal calls for changing the starting and ending times, as of the 2019-20 school year, in the following ways:
▪ Current schedule: Doors open and breakfast is served at 7:15 a.m.; classes start at 8 a.m.; classes end at 2:30 p.m.
▪ Proposed schedule: Doors open and breakfast is served at 7 a.m.; classes start at 7:45 a.m.; classes end at 2:45 p.m.
▪ Current schedule: Doors open and breakfast is served at 8:30 a.m.; classes start at 8:50 a.m.; classes end at 3:53 p.m.
▪ Proposed schedule: Doors open and breakfast is served at 8:15 a.m.; classes start at 8:45 a.m.; classes end at 4 p.m.
▪ Current schedule: Doors open and breakfast is served at 7:45 a.m.; classes start at 8:10 a.m.; classes end at 3:25 a.m.
▪ Proposed schedule: Doors open and breakfast is served at 7:45 a.m.; classes start at 8:15 a.m.; classes end at 3:30 p.m.
No board member disagreed with Lewis about his contention that the district needs to add more instructional time for elementary schools.
Lewis emphasized MCSD elementary schools have only the minimum of six and a half hours required by state law. But several board members disagreed with the proposal to start elementary school classes 15 minutes earlier.
District 2 representative Mike Edmondson, a retired teacher, said studies show earlier start times to the school day are detrimental to students.
“What we do needs to be research-based and not convenience-based,” he said.
Kia Chambers, the nine-member board’s countywide representative, also is a former teacher and agreed with Edmondson. She voiced concern that the earlier start times might increase tardiness, meaning those students would be at risk of missing the expanded instruction.
Keith Seifert, the district’s chief academic officer, said the proposal has unanimous support from the elementary, middle and high school principals, as well as the superintendent’s teacher and principal advisory committees.
However, district 4 representative Naomi Buckner suggested the administration should get feedback from parents.
District 6 representative Mark Cantrell said his phone “lit up” with complaints about the proposal. He asked his Facebook followers for their opinion, and in four hours, he said, 126 of the 130 respondents were against it.
It’s hard to tell whether those opinions on Facebook came from MCSD parents, said District 5 representative, Laurie McRae, the board’s vice chairwoman. She said she wants the administration to survey them. Cantrell suggested conducting a public forum.
And to those parents balking at the proposal, District 1 representative Pat Hugley Green, the board’s chairwoman, used herself as an example of the need to be willing to adjust.
“That’s just a responsibility I’ve got to take on as a parent,” she said. “I didn’t think we would make it when we changed it from 8:25 to 8 o’clock. But instead of getting there at 8:24, I got there at 7:59.”
Providing the minimum number of hours the state requires for elementary schools, Green said, “I think we can do better than that.”