Education

New school times proposal changes after Muscogee County parents, teachers surveyed

Superintendent responds to parent’s criticism of proposed change to school times

Virginia Korcha, a mother of Muscogee County School District children, speaks to the Muscogee County School Board during its monthly meeting Monday, May 20, 2019, in the Muscogee County Public Education Center. Superintendent David Lewis responds.
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Virginia Korcha, a mother of Muscogee County School District children, speaks to the Muscogee County School Board during its monthly meeting Monday, May 20, 2019, in the Muscogee County Public Education Center. Superintendent David Lewis responds.

Muscogee County School District Superintendent David Lewis has reduced the time he is proposing to add to the end of the school day for elementary students after school board members received the results of an online survey to measure opinions of parents.

He has now proposed adding 15 minutes to the end of the school day.

Last month, Lewis proposed the addition of 15 minutes to the beginning of the day and 15 minutes to the end of the day, and a decision was postponed until the district could gather input from teachers and parents.

The proposal was met with ire from some parents at the May 20 meeting.

An online survey was posted on the school district website May 29 and was open through June 4, but the survey was criticized because despite being sent directly to parents of elementary students, anyone who wanted to could access and take the survey multiple times if they chose.

Mercedes Parham, district communications director, addressed those issues at the board’s June 10 work session.

“Unfortunately with this survey our intention was to be more inclusive than exclusive and that didn’t allow us to control some of the variables which included being able to identify specifically a parent versus a general public member,” Parham said. “It was communicated first to our parents of how to access the survey.”

She also said that people being able to access the survey more than once was “a variable that we could not control in this particular mechanism.”

Parham said the parent survey drew over 3,000 responses and that parents were “somewhat split on whether or not to implement the full 30 minutes.”

Parham also said that 548 responses from teachers and administrators from a different survey indicated that they were in favor of the additional time.

“The concerns that we most saw from teachers indicated that everyone wanted some form of flexibility, it’s just different forms of flexibility,” Parham said. “Overwhelmingly administrators supported adding the full 30 minutes. Some teachers supported adding the full 30 minutes having it at the end of the day, but of course we know that our schedule would not necessarily allow that.”

Amanda Hoskins, a former MCSD elementary school teacher and PTA member, spoke during public input and said she was opposed to the longer day.

“Thank you for listening to the parents and the educators and reducing the proposed extended time. ... We appreciate that, however I do feel confident that if you re-administered the survey, you’d have the same results for the 15 minute proposal,” Hoskins said.

District 5 board member Laurie McRae asked Lewis if the board voted to add the 15 minutes, if in a few years he would come back and ask for more time to be added.

“Thirty minutes is optimal, this is adequate,” Lewis said. “I will never sit here and promise forevermore ... but based on the current situations that I know of, this is going to be adequate going forward.”

Lewis continued to back up his proposal, and said MCSD elementary schools have the minimum of 6 1/2 hours required by state law.

“We’ve talked about becoming a premier district, I just don’t know how you can become a premier district when minimums are your maximums,” Lewis said.

If implemented, the new proposal would still impact high school and middle school schedules due to transportation demands. The high school schedule would be pushed back five minutes, while the middle school schedule would have five minutes added in the morning and five added in the afternoon.

A final vote is expected June 24.

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