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Board Will Reconsider New Start/End Times for Elementary Schools

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Board Will Reconsider New Start/End Times for Elementary Schools
Posted on 04/03/2015

The Portland Board of Public Education voted earlier this week to make some changes in school start and end times to accommodate 20 more minutes of student learning time that will be added to each school day, beginning this fall. The changes approved impact the city’s public high schools, middle schools and elementary schools, beginning with the 2015-2016 school year.

In response to public comments and questions received this week, the school board plans to reconsider the elementary schools start and end times it approved in that March 31 vote.

The school board will hold a workshop on that issue at its next regular meeting on Tuesday, April 7, in the City Council chambers at City Hall. The workshop will start at 6 p.m., followed by the school board business meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m. The board will then hold a public hearing on Tuesday, April 28, at Lincoln Middle School from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., with the board’s business meeting immediately following the public hearing. If changes are made to the elementary school times, the board will hold a final vote on the revised student start and end times for the 2015-2016 school calendar on Tuesday, May 5, at the board’s regular 7 p.m. meeting at City Hall.

The board plans no further changes to the new high school and middle school times that were just approved. It will reconsider only the elementary school times, based on the feedback received.

Prior to the March 31 vote, the school board held two public hearings on the school start and end times. However, the public’s discussion at the public hearings was centered mainly on the high school times, which the board later voted to adjust to address concerns raised by parents and students. Understanding that elementary school families were unclear about the impact the change in times would have on them, the board now plans to reconsider those elementary school schedules.

“It’s good to have a deliberative process and come up with a thoughtful response to all the feedback,” said Portland Public Schools Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk. “This is an opportune time do that because these schedule changes won’t start until next fall.”

He noted that the feedback has not included opposition to the students’ new longer, 6.5-hour instructional day. “This extra learning time added to the school day is an important benefit for our students that we all can support,” Caulk said. “It’s really the schedule times that are the issue, and we want to ensure the community is fully involved in the process of setting them.”

When it comes to elementary schools, the new start and end times will depend on which school bus transportation group a school is in. The latest proposed schedule that the board plans to consider at the upcoming workshop is as follows:

• Elementary School Group 1 (East End, Riverton, Ocean Avenue and Reiche) – 8:05 a.m. to 2:35 p.m.

• Elementary School Group 2 (Hall, Longfellow, Lyseth and Presumpscot) – 8: 55 a.m. to 3:25 p.m.

Most elementary schools currently start at 8:55 and end 3:05, although Riverton and East End school have grant-funded early start programs that begin at 8:15 a.m.

Peaks Island and Cliff Island schools will maintain their current schedule for the 2015-2016 school year.

Other schedule changes include new times for Lyman Moore and Lincoln middle schools and the Bayside Learning Community, with a day that begins at 8:35 a.m. and ends at 3:05 p.m. Those schools now have varying start and end times that range from as early as 8 a.m. to as late as 3 p.m.

King Middle School’s day will start at 7:55 a.m. and end at 2:25 p.m. That school currently starts at 8:15 a.m. and ends at 2:25 p.m. That school will keep the same end time because most middle school students who live on islands attend that school and must leave by 2:25 p.m. in order to catch their afternoon ferry.

Students at Deering, Portland and Casco Bay high schools will continue to start school at 8 a.m., as they do now, but their school day will now finish at 2:30 p.m. instead of 2:10 p.m. Times for the Portland Art and Technology High School (PATHS) will remain the same as they are now, running from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

The school board proposed to have high school students begin their day later because research shows students who get more sleep perform better in school. However, the later start would have meant a later dismissal time and parents and students raised concerns that such a late ending time would create a conflict for student playing sports, attending after-school clubs, holding jobs and – if they live on Casco Bay islands – catching afternoon ferries. The board voted to create a task force made up of various stakeholders to explore the challenges and potential benefits of possibly making the shift to a later start time in the future.

As part of the new changes, Portland METRO buses will transport most high school students to and from classes. School bus transportation will be provided for high school special education students.

The longer day for students was part of a contract agreement between the district and the Portland teachers’ union that the school board approved in December.

Starting this fall, students will attend school for 178 days per year, compared to the 180 days they’re attending this year. However, because each student day will be 20 minutes longer, students will actually gain learning time. Their new 6.5-hour day means they’ll get more than 46 additional instructional hours in school over the course of the year. That’s a 4 percent increase over the current year’s student hours.