Shorter school day on Manatee's agenda

Early-release Wednesdays to be re-evaluated

ataylor@bradenton.comJuly 22, 2011 

MANATEE -- Nearly 10,000 parents have offered their opinions while others continue to chime in about an often-discussed scheduling issue for Manatee County’s School District: early release Wednesdays.

That’s when the school day district-wide is shortened for teachers to allow them professional development time.

Board members will vote Monday on whether to continue early release Wednesdays for the 2011-12 school year.

“This is probably one of the best decisions of the school board,” Wakeland Elementary School Principal Chuck Fradley said about the shortened school day. “It’s year-long professional development for schools with no cost to the district.”

Under the shortened Wednesday schedule, high schools are released by 12:30 p.m., elementary schools by 1:15 p.m. and middle schools by 2:10 p.m. Additional time is added to Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday to accommodate the Wednesday schedule.

Questions, however, have been raised about the shortened day: Does it help students and teachers? Is it an inconvenience to parents?

The school district surveyed about 9,700 parents in March, asking if the modified schedule should continue for the coming school year. According to the survey, 4,722 or 48 percent of the parents who responded said early-release Wednesday should continue. About 36 percent, or 3,556, disagreed and 14.7 percent were undecided.

However, board Chairman Bob Gause said parents and teachers are continuing to offer their opinions.

“I have been getting feedback. I’ve been getting emails,” Gause said. “So far, they have been overwhelmingly supportive.”

Leslie Goodson is one parent who supports the Wednesday schedule. She told Gause that she took part in a recent phone survey.

“I want you and the other board members to know that this schedule provides support for our teachers’ education and curriculum development that directly impacts our children’s education,” Goodson said. “That is what is most important. I think it is crucial for the success of the teachers and students at Wakeland Elementary where my children attend and have since 2007.”

In March, board members were concerned about the hardship the schedule had on parents, who have to make arrangements for their children. Goodson offered her opinion on that matter as well. “Both my husband and I work and I can tell you from a parent’s perspective it is certainly do-able and not any more difficult than a non-modified schedule,” she said.

Board members vote Monda, and also will consider start and end times of each school. School Superintendent Tim McGonegal will recommend the same start and end times as last year’s: high schools from 7:45 a.m. to 2:20 p.m.; elementary schools from 8:30 a.m. to 3:05 p.m. and middle schools from 9:15 a.m. to 3:55 p.m.

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