Shorter School Days and Bell Schedules

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Not so long ago, I went to Beginner’s Day at my son’s soon-to-be school. A large group of parents of rising kindergarteners was there. Many questions were tossed out about school lunches, busses, and the bell schedule. This particular school has a very late bell – 9:15 a.m. with dismissal at 3:45 p.m. The day is no longer than any other elementary school, but it does cut into time in the afternoons for extracurricular activities, family time, and of course, homework time. What I found interesting was the answer to the question, “Will the bell schedule be changing?” Though the prinicpal couldn’t give specifics, she said not to anticipate a change in 2014-15, but yes, she expected one the following year.

Personally I’m OK with this schedule right now because it fits my husband and my work schedules so that we should be able to drop off and pick up our son without doing the before and afterschool care, but many parents in Charlotte are not OK with the late bells for elementary schools, which in turn means earlier bells schedules for high schoolers. Logically it makes sense to flip the two because little ones tend to be early risers, but teens stay up later, cram for tests at night and then are not the roosters to get up and get going before dawn. A CMS Task Force that includes parents, teachers and CMS officials are debating how to change the bell schedules to accommodate families and students in the best way, and also keep the costs of running the busses down.

That’s the rub, the changing of the bell schedules a few years ago was done in order to run a tiered bus schedule that reduced the number of busses running, and cut spending costs. Because of the need to cut costs, they added 45 minutes to the elementary school day and had to adjust start and end times to accommodate the busses. I get it, but once again it makes me sigh in frustration. Why is it that lack of funds for our schools results changes that negatively impact the students it should benefit? The 45 additional minutes bothers me more than the varying schedules. Kids need time to play and do other things to learn. Tacking on more time doesn’t add to their instruction and also put teachers with a longer day without more pay.

So anyhow the debate goes on about what to do, but the task force is working toward shorter days for elementary school students and earlier bells for middle school students (not sure where that leaves the high school kids?). Definitely more to come on this as the task force vollies different ideas and strategies, but based on the comment by the principal at Beginner’s Day, change is coming!