Thursday, August 28, 2014
The stated purpose of a new bell and bus schedule for Dorchester District Two is to “advance academic achievement for all students,” but some district parents are skeptical — particularly over the high school schedule.
Parents and teachers filled most of the seats in Newington Elementary’s media center Aug. 27 to participate in the first community meeting to discuss the proposed bell schedule changes for the start and end times to the school day.
After the presentation, parent Lisa Shindler said the proposed bell schedule would have a negative effect on her daughter’s senior year because of her after-school activities.
Her daughter, a junior at Ashley Ridge High School, has volleyball practice after school, and she also volunteers.
Shindler told The Summerville Journal Scene she plans to attend more of the community meetings about the bell schedule, and hopes by the end of all the sessions the district will have gathered more information.
“I think they were open to the questions, but I’m not sure if they resolved any of my questions,” she said.
Parents couldn’t directly ask questions but instead were given the opportunity to write down questions and concerns on cards and submit them to be read aloud by school officials.
A selection of district principals joined Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Sean Alford in giving the presentation to parents on the benefits of changing the bell schedule.
“This is a topic we have discussed as an organization for a while,” Alford said. “We had the opportunity in an administrative meeting with over 70 of the district’s leaders in when we began to talk, analyze and collaborate…and came to the consensus that as it relates to our current bell schedule, we needed to do something different.”
The proposed schedule calls for high school hours to run from 9:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.; middle schools from 8:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.; and elementary schools from 7:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. Currently, high school starts at 7:25 a.m. and ends at 2:55 p.m.; middle school starts at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m.; and elementary hours are 7:25 a.m. to 2:10 p.m.
The new schedule also has high school students being dropped off via bus at 9 a.m. instead of 6:15 a.m. Middle school’s bus drop-off time would remain at 8 a.m. and elementary schools would remain at 7 a.m.
Any changes would take effect in the 2015-2016 school year.
DD2’s presentation described a decrease traffic congestion, increase in the number of available buses and improved morning bus pick-up times if the district is able to change the bus schedule. The district says the proposed schedule would allow high school students more sleep, thereby improving their school performance.
Many of the parents’ questions revolved around the high school start times, particularly with how the new bell schedule would affect students who work or participate in extracurriculars after school.
Alford said as far as after-school jobs are concerned, DD2 offers school work programs, apprenticeships, internships and shadowing experiences that the district would rather have students participate in. He said community members are willing to support student work schedules.
“We would like to be able to route students in that directions,” he said. “We are increasing the number of students participating in apprenticeships, mentoring opportunities and internships.”
One of the presentation slides said the new bell schedule could provide opportunities for morning and afternoon practices, and should have “minimal impact” to game schedules.
Alford assured parents and teachers who attended the meeting that nothing is set in stone.
“No decisions have been made, our mind is not made up,” he said.
Cecilia Wilburn-Davis, fifth grade teacher at Newington Elementary and also a district parent, said she felt better about the new schedule after attending the meeting.
Wilburn-Davis’s daughter Aminah Davis is a junior at Ashley Ridge and a cheerleader. Wilburn-Davis is concerned about her daughter having later evenings, but said the new schedule might allow her daughter more sleep.
“I think I’m less opposed to it now than I was before,” Wilburn-Davis said.
Her daughter, however, disagreed, saying she likes getting through school earlier in the day. “I’d rather get it over with in the morning,” she said. “Maybe for a freshman coming into it, it’d be normal. For me this is not familiar.”
DD2 officials said the slideshow from Aug. 27’s presentation will be posted on the district’s website.
The next community meeting will be at Ashley Ridge High School on Sept. 9, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.