Program starts early controversy

The pros and cons of 'Late Start'

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— School administrators and parents voiced their opinions at a community forum last night about Late Start, a proposal that the Steamboat Springs School District plans to implement for the 2001 school year.

Many administrators brought to the roundtable discussion the topic of quality time versus quantity time spent in the classroom. Teachers are not given the appropriate time to spend collaborating on lesson plans and integrative teaching methods to accommodate each child's needs, administrators said.

"One teacher in isolation only has one set of ideas," said John DeVincentis, principal of Strawberry Park Elementary. "Teachers learn better from each other teachers. We need to stop, take a look to see where we are and regroup to tie that to student achievement."

The Late Start proposal calls for every public school in Steamboat to start 70 minutes late each week in order for teachers of every grade and between schools to identify teaching techniques, increase teaching skills to meet the needs of raised content standards and implement different learning styles.

And while the majority of parents agreed that teachers need more time to plan and collaborate on these ideas, they didn't agree that it should be at the expense of the children.

"I'm concerned with reduced contact time," said Tom Ptach, father of a third-grade Strawberry Park student.

MaryLiz Gale, mother of two Soda Creek Elementary students, said she was impressed with the thought put into the proposal, but also is concerned that the no-cost benefit will hurt her children.

"My only concern is that the cost is going to be at the expense of my children," Gale said. "I think the costs are too high and they should be getting an education for those hours."

While agreeing with the plan, but not its logistics, Gale and Ptach said they think teachers should get paid extra for hours spent before the school year starts.

Although a whole other subject matter in itself, the administrators informed parents that raising teacher salaries is not in the budget and simply not a viable option.

DeVincentis said other schools in the state have incorporated the same idea, but is not sure of the outcome.

A one-and-a-half hour discussion led to more informed parents and administrators, hoping to resolve the issue in a manner best for the children.

"If you don't see the investment (in the plan), then we don't see the investment," said Judy Harris, director of content standard for the Steamboat Spring School District.

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