The school day schedule will look a bit different in Carmel Clay Schools when classes resume as normal.
The CCS board of trustees voted 4-1 at its virtual May 18 meeting to push back the start of the middle and high school day by an hour and start the elementary school day 15 minutes earlier. Middle and high schools will begin at 8:45 a.m., and elementary schools will begin at 7:50 a.m.
The middle schools and high school will end classes at 3:45 p.m., which is later than they currently do. Elementary schools will continue to dismiss at 2:35 p.m.
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., CCS Supt. Michael Beresford said at a previous school board meeting. Benefits include increased attention in class, decreased risk-taking behavior and improved school attendance.
The changes allow elementary schools to extend their recess from 15 to 30 minutes. For years, many CCS parents have been asking the district to extend recess.
“This will give the students more time to engage in unstructured play with classmates,” Beresford said. “As always, we’ll continue to evaluate how we’re using our minutes.”
At the April 27 school board meeting, Beresford recommended extending the elementary school day by 30 minutes, but many elementary teachers opposed the idea.
Extending the elementary school day by 15 minutes is expected to cost approximately $168,000 per year to cover the cost of hourly workers. Beresford said the district expects to recoup some of those costs by the shortening of the middle and high school days.
Board member Pam Knowles voted against the proposal, saying she couldn’t vote to add an expense when the COVID-19 pandemic is causing financial uncertainty for school districts.
“With all of these unknowns I can’t support spending additional money to extend the elementary school day,” she said.
Beresford said changes to the school day won’t go into effect until schools are able to operate normally again.
“This recommendation is for when school is in regular session in our regular setting,” Beresford said. “We really don’t have a clear idea of what the rules are going to be in the fall and what the schedule might look like.”
Gov. Eric Holcomb has said he expects to provide guidelines for school reopenings in July, after the state has reached stage 5 of the Back On Track plan.
The board also approved starting the school day 40 minutes late twice a month to give teachers more time to collaborate and prepare. The district plans to offer free childcare for students in kindergarten through eighth grade on those days for parents who can’t adjust their work schedules to accommodate the delayed start.
Pete O’Hara, Carmel Teachers’ Association president and a Carmel High School teacher, said he is supportive of the changes approved by the school board.
“All along I thought extending the day by 30 minutes was too much (for elementary students), and I think that extending the day by 15 minutes is a good compromise,” he said.