Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Time allows a better plan to early-release school days

Now that the Blaine County School District has decided to put a hold on a program of releasing students from class two hours earlier twice a month, the pause may lead to better ideas.

The initial proposal led to widespread parental complaints about inconvenience. Some teachers also wondered aloud if interrupting a fixed classroom schedule might also disturb consistency in student learning and study.

The biggest hitch in the original plan is that many district parents are single, working mothers and fathers who would find it difficult, even unaffordable, to arrange to pick up their children earlier than scheduled because of their jobs.

So, this is a major predicament facing the school board in rethinking how to provide professional development time for teachers, while not unduly burdening parents and/or finding ways to occupy students rather than send them home. The least costly solution, of course, is also at the top of the list.

We don't pretend to any special wisdom, but here are some possible alternatives for discussion:

· Since the district and the teachers benefit from the professional development periods, could the professional development work time be scheduled during weekends or the summer?

· Are student teachers or teacher interns available to act as substitutes during the proposed early-release days so students can effectively continue their classroom work?

· Just as one member of the U.S. presidential cabinet remains away from State of the Union speeches, could teachers alternate during the professional development schedule to remain in school and supervise special programs for students in a mass assembly?

· Could the professional development be scheduled in two full days, rather in two-hour allotments over time, scheduled at the beginning or end of the 2006-2007 school year and the school term extended two days appropriately?

Paramount in the deliberations and any solution should be the learning welfare of the students.

U.S. students generally have a far easier curriculum than in other nations where, for example, school years are longer. Many nations require courses in two languages.

So, although the proposed 18-hour early release program for Blaine students may seem a minimal interruption in education, it suggests students getting a "break" from studies.

A solution that principally benefits the immediate needs of students and maintains consistency in their academic lives should be the ultimate goal of the school district as it looks for a better plan.

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