District considers weekly late start or early release for all schools

Changes considered to allow for regular teacher planning time

Posted 7/9/19
After a March survey and June school board meeting, Jeffco Public Schools is considering its next steps for a plan that could set a weekly late start or early release for all of its schools. The …

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District considers weekly late start or early release for all schools

Changes considered to allow for regular teacher planning time

Posted

After a March survey and June school board meeting, Jeffco Public Schools is considering its next steps for a plan that could set a weekly late start or early release for all of its schools.

The discussion coincides with a change to the 2019-2020 calendar, which will not include the handful of early release days that are usually listed. These days — when students leave school early while staff members stay for planning and training — have been included in previous districtwide school calendars. But in 2019-2020 the individual schools may choose to hold early release days, and there will be five to seven full non-student days district-wide, depending on how many snow days are taken during the school year.

A significant change to this scheduling plan could go into effect in the 2020-2021 school year, designating a weekly time for teacher planning known as Professional Learning Committees (PLCs), or collaborative planning.

“Teachers are overwhelmingly begging for this time period,” Jeffco PTA president Shawna Fritzler said.

While almost all district high schools already include PLC time in their weekly schedules through a late start or early release, most elementary and middle schools do not, said Todd Engels, executive director of school leadership with the district.

Members of the Jefferson County Educators Association (JCEA) asked the district to create PLC time for all schools during their negotiations process in the spring of 2018. The teachers’ union and district signed a memorandum of understanding that led to the formation of the Late Start/Early Release Taskforce, with the goal of finding the best strategy to implement PLC time.

“We’ve got knowledge of better instructional strategies to make learning engaging for kids, but the reality is, that takes more (planning) time,” said Karen Quanbeck, who was elementary chief of schools before moving to another district July 1. “This is not work teachers can do in isolation or at home.”

The taskforce is currently debating when the PLC period should occur, or how long it should be.

At the board’s June 12 study session, Quanbeck and her colleagues presented two proposals for how the district could implement the change, should it choose to do so.

The proposals

Under the first proposal, all schools would schedule either an early release or late start on the same day of the week — for instance, all schools may have a one-hour early release every Friday.

Proposal one would require K-5 supervision provided by licensed district staff during the PLC period. School finance employees have estimated the supervision will cost $225,000, Quanbeck said.

The estimation is based on the assumption that roughly half of parents will need supervision for their children during the PLC time, “which is what other districts who have done this have seen happen,” she said.

Presenters suggested either all schools would use the same PLC time, or have high schools keep their current PLC times, but have all elementary and middle schools would use a uniform time. That second option would cost the district an estimated additional $335,000 because of the bus schedule, putting the total cost at $560,000.

The second option may also pose a problem for bigger families who depend on older students to look after younger students while parents are at work, Fritzler said.

“When we change just high school or just middle school, we create other impacts to families,” she said.

A second proposal would allow high schools to keep current PLC times while asking each middle and elementary schools to individually schedule a weekly PLC time. That time could occur at any point during the student contact day.

Though this proposal gives schools more scheduling freedom, it could create a burden for families with multiple children. Proposal two would also be more costly than both versions of proposal one.

Because PLC times could happen at any time of day, the district would need to fund supervision for all students, instead of half of K-5 students. This would increase supervision costs from $225,000 to between $2 million and $3.2 million, Quanbeck said.

What’s next

The district plans to send out a strategic survey to parents and teachers to determine which proposal would most benefit families and staff, or if the community would like to see other options. Future survey feedback will also help determine the day PLC time falls on, as well as whether the time occurs during a late start or an early release.

Fritzler added that the district will increase communication with the community, potentially through social media and a presentation at Back to School Night.

The board hopes to make a final decision no later than mid-November this year.

“What we need to commit to is finding a quality solution and then seeing if we could afford it,” said board president Ron Mitchell. “This is an issue that we need to find a way to deal with.”

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