School Hours Plan Discussed at Community Forums
There was a good turnout for the first of four community forums about the district’s plan for improving school hours last night at Windsor Elementary School.
The forums are a chance for concerned citizens to hear from administrators and register input in person, and are in addition to the district’s online survey that so far has generated nearly 7,000 responses.
Susie Tallman, the district’s Executive Director of Elementary Schools, and Tim Schott, Executive Director of Secondary Schools, began the proceedings with a brief presentation on the background for the proposal that included a video featuring Superintendent Dr. Tom Ahart. Also on hand were Chief of Schools Matt Smith, Transportation Director Todd Liston and several school board members.
Following the presentation, audience members were encouraged to comment and several did. They expressed everything from wholehearted endorsement of the plan, the essence of which is later start times for secondary schools and earlier ones for elementary buildings (in accordance with research on sleep patterns and brain development), to apprehension about elementary students walking to school and/or bus stops in the dark.
The gathering then broke into small Q&A groups led by the district administrators.
Schott explained that the proposed change is actually a resurrection of an idea that goes back a decade.
“At that time it was determined that the transportation costs were prohibitive,” he said. “Since then an expanded partnership with DART made it possible to reconsider this.”
Now, according to Liston, the plan can be accomplished with a fleet of about 100 buses.
“That’s about the number we have now,” he said. “Ten years ago it would have required about 170 and cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
The timeline of the community feedback process calls for a final decision to be made by the school board next month.
“They could adopt the plan as currently proposed, tweak it in accordance with feedback from these forums and the survey, or decide it’s a bad idea and scrap it altogether,” said Schott.
Tallman thanked everyone for coming and said the district has been pleased with the degree of input coming from the community since the proposal was announced.
“We realize that this is something which impacts everyone in the community so we want to hear from as many people as possible before making a decision,” she said.
There are four other community forums scheduled:
- Tuesday, February 28 – North High School, 6 p.m.
- Thursday, March 2 – Hoyt Middle School, 6 p.m.
- Thursday, March 9 – DMPS Administrative offices, 2100 Fleur Dr., 8:30 a.m.
- Thursday, March 9 – Weeks Middle School, 6 p.m.
In addition, people are encouraged to visit the school district’s web pages on school hours to learn more about the proposal, read some of the research that backs the proposed change, and complete an online survey.