Carmel Clay Schools Supt. Michael Beresford is recommending several changes to the daily school schedule beginning in the fall, even though many elementary school teachers are against one of the proposals.
The CCS school board reviewed the recommendations at its April 27 meeting, which was held virtually and streamed live on the district’s YouTube channel because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Proposed changes include moving the middle and high school start times to 8:45 a.m. from 7:45 a.m. and 7:50 a.m., respectively, and moving the elementary school start time from 8:05 a.m. to 7:50 a.m. Students in middle and high school would have a slightly shorter school day, while the elementary day would be 30 minutes longer.
Surveys about the changes showed support for the changes from middle school teachers and mixed reaction from high school teachers. Elementary school teachers were strongly against adding a half hour to the school day.
Half of the additional 30 minutes would be used as at teachers’ discretion for activities such as social/emotional learning or student collaboration. The other 15 minutes would double the current recess time, a request many CCS parents have been making for years.
“The elementary teachers are passionately concerned about the extra time and the extended day,” said Pete O’Hara, Carmel Teachers’ Association president and a Carmel High School teacher. “The emails that I’m getting are about 15 to 1 from teachers who are passionately concerned about it. They’re concerned about how the extra time affects kids.”
An extended school day is expected to cost the district $336,000 annually to cover additional work time for hourly employees, Beresford said, adding that some of those costs may be recouped by shorter work days at the middle and high schools.
Beresford said the school start times could be modified as proposed without extending the elementary school day. CCS Associate Supt. Roger McMichael said that option could help with transportation issues.
“In today’s world of being short on bus drivers, that would be a benefit in terms of giving us more time to run the elementary routes before the high school day was finished,” McMichael said.
Another recommendation is to implement a late-start day twice a month to provide additional time for teacher professional development. On those days, classes would start 40 minutes later than normal. School would end at its usual time.
Beresford said the district is planning to offer free childcare for students in kindergarten through eighth grade on late start days for parents who can’t adjust their work schedules on those days.
The recommendations are in response to several studies that show a variety of benefits in allowing teens to start their school days later, preferably after 8:30 a.m., Beresford said. Benefits include increased attention in class, decreased risk-taking behavior and improved school attendance.
“We’re seeing anxiety and depression increasing, and we’re seeing our younger kids struggling with regulating their behavior,” Beresford said. “We’re trying to put layers in place, and these changes play right into that.”
A vote on the recommendations is expected at the board’s May 25 meeting. Community members and teachers are invited to provide feedback on the issue at https://Forms.gle/XmraPXVxFjrvt2mWA.