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Board Continues Discussion of School Day Proposal

by on December 05, 2017 10:48 AM

State College Area School Board on Monday received an update, including projected costs, for a proposal that would extend the elementary school day and provide a later start time for middle schools and the high school.

District teachers voted in April to approve a contract change in support of a proposal to provide more planning and instruction time at the elementary level and later start times for the secondary schools.  Elementary schools currently start at 8:44 a.m. and end at 2:50 p.m., making it one of the shortest elementary days in the state. Under a revised proposal, the elementary school day would be extended by 44 minutes, starting at 8:10 a.m. and ending at 3 p.m.

Middle school and high school start times would shift from the current 8:10 a.m. to 8:40 a.m., with middle schools ending at 3:42 p.m. and the high school at 3:40 p.m.

The changes are intended to increase instruction time at the elementary levels while aligning secondary times with sleep research recommendations for adolescents.

District administrators told the board on Monday that the estimated annual cost of the changes would total $1.455 million with one-time expenses of $450,000.

One of the challenges for the changes has been bus routes. After working with the firm School Bus Consultants, administrators determined three new bus routes, fewer than initially expected, would be needed. Business Administrator Randy Brown said the annual additional transportation cost would be $350,000, including additional staffing and hours.

A one-time replacement of six 30-passenger buses with six 48-passenger buses would be needed at a cost of about $200,000. 

District students will not see an increase in the length of bus rides under the plan.

The proposal calls for up to 24 minutes daily of additional core instruction time at the elementary level, as well as the addition of a fifth special subject, a 10 to 15 minute increase in specials time each day and an increase recess time. 

For the fifth special, 2,074 parents and teachers responded to a survey and 47.5 percent favored a focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects, with 26 percent each for Spanish language and culture and personal development. A survey was also distributed to 805 fourth and fifth grade students, with 57 percent favoring a STEM subject.

About $900,000 would be needed annually for staffing and curriculum for the fifth special, and $205,000 for support staff for special education, recess supervision and other needs. If a STEM subject is selected as the fifth special, it would require a one-time curriculum cost of $250,000.

Vernon Bock, assistant superintendent for elementary education, said the proposal also would allow for increased time for enrichment and intervention services, as students currently miss some core instruction time for those. Additionally, music ensembles could take place during the school day and teacher planning and collaboration time would increase.

At the high school level, Will Stout, assistant superintendent for secondary education, said the proposal would increase flexible learning options, including online and hybrid learning and a morning "zero period." 

District administrators also are working to change the start times for home athletic competitions from 4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and to schedule non-Mid Penn Conference events on Saturdays. They are working with the Mid Penn Conference to adjust scheduling as well to reduce the amount missed class time.

For the $1.455 million in recurring annual expenses, $1.155 million is included in annual budget projections. That includes $644,000 in recurring state funds from the district's annual basic education subsidy. The remaining $300,000 would need to be identified through budget development, as would the $450,000 in one-time costs for 2018-19.

A vote on the proposal is expected at the board's Dec. 18 meeting. If approved, the changes would go into effect for the 2018-19 school year.



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at geoff.rushton@statecollege.com or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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