Changes in start times mark new school year

31 Aug

It’s hard to go anywhere these days without hearing moms and kids or moms and moms chatting about the beginning of the new school year. And several of those conversations have involved the schools’ new start times.

If you have kids in the Webster schools, you certainly already know about the new start times. In past years, school start times have been staggered — for example, Plank North and Plank South started about an hour apart. This year for the first time, all the elementary schools in the district will open their doors within minutes of each other, around 9 am.  The secondary schools will start earlier, as usual, but will also all open at about the same time, around 7:30 am. (For details, check the WCSD website.)

I’ve heard the rationale behind this explained a few times, and am still trying to get my head around it. Here’s the official explanation from Carm Gumina, Deputy Superintendent of the Webster Central School District:

The State’s move to a new Common Core Curriculum and new assessments based on this Common Core was certainly a significant driverfor the change.  The opportunity to add 40-60 hours of core instructional time for our 4th and 5th graders in a way that is tax-neutral was just as significant.

How did we “add 40-60 hours of core instructional time?”   Activity period (band/orchestra/chorus/intramurals/art club) has traditionally been during the school day, and when 4th/5th graders would leave their classrooms to attend these activities, the core instructional day would essentially stop for that 45 minute block of time. Now activity period will be before school on Mon, Tues, Thurs, and Fridays (Wednesdays are meeting days for teachers).  Students signed up for their activities last May/June, but will be able to sign up when school starts as well.  Busing will be provided before school as well.

I’m told that because the activity period lands before the school day instead of middle of the day, kids will be less hesitant to leave classroom to do an activity. So the change creates opportunities for kids to try more things.

Carm’s detailed explanation doesn’t specifically address why the start times were changed for the secondary schools as well, but I know it is closely tied to the Common Core Curriculum and its recommendations.

These new start times will require some adjustment for parents. Some will appreciate the later start times that several of the elementary schools are implementing. But that will also mean later release times, which could affect after-school activities. For others, their children will have to get used to waking up an hour earlier, an idea which I’m sure does NOT sit well with the kids.  And it will be interesting to see what the traffic is like on Publisher’s Parkway in the morning with both Thomas High School and Willink Middle School starting within 15 minutes of each other.

Several elementary schools are also seeing some shifting in their populations this fall. Specifically, many Klem South Elementary students will be transferring to Schlegel and Dewitt, some Plank North students will go to Plank South, and some State Road students will go to Schlegel Road. The changes will affect somewhere between 115 and 125 students.

Director of Communications Ann Carmody explained that the changes are in response to recent growth in the Webster population, which has been steady in recent years, but favored particular neighborhoods.  Lately that growth has stabilized, so the district figured it would be a good time to reassign some of those neighborhoods and “rebalance” the schools to attain optimal class sizes.


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