Tuesday, February 1, 2005
After several years of discussion, the Steamboat Springs School District plans to implement late start or early release at each of its schools beginning this fall.
Superintendent Donna Howell said last week that a district subcommittee is reviewing options for late start or early release in hopes that a plan can be finalized by mid-March.
"I believe it's going to happen," Howell said. "It's a matter of working it through and minimizing the impact on various groups and maximizing the time for staff."
Steamboat Springs High School has used late start for several years to provide teachers and support staff extra time for planning and professional development. School begins 100 minutes later than usual on late-start days at the high school. The high school has a late start once a month, usually on the third Wednesday of each month.
"It really is a good time for our departments to get together and work," high school Principal Dave Schmid said. "They really don't have the time otherwise. I don't know how we'd go without it."
The district has not decided whether to do late start or early release, Howell said. On early release days, classes would end earlier than usual, but teachers would remain at school to plan lessons, work on curriculum development or take advantage of professional development opportunities.
"We don't have sufficient time for staff development," Howell said. "We need time for professional development, data analyzation and planning time to develop instructional strategies."
District officials have discussed implementing late start for several years. Two years ago, former Superintendent Cyndy Simms postponed plans to enact late start districtwide after school principals expressed concern that more planning and community input was needed.
Some parents have said a late-start or early release schedule would create child-care issues and other problems for working families. Howell said the district doesn't plan to offer formal before- or after-school activities for families affected by late start or early release, but that the school system will explore such programs depending on the demand for them.
"If there's a definite need, we can discuss how we can accommodate it," she said. "We'll try to be cognizant of the fallout from all groups."
Other obstacles to late start or early release include revising bus schedules and determining whether to lengthen each school day by several minutes or add an extra day during the school year to ensure no student contact time is lost.
Howell said results from a parent and staff calendar survey sent out two years ago show support for late start. According to the survey results, 52 percent of respondents supported late start, 21 percent supported late start only if the district provides alternative activities for students and 27 percent said they didn't support late start.
If the district doesn't provide alternative student activities on late-start or early release days, the survey results indicate that 48 percent of respondents don't support late start or early release.
Howell acknowledged that not everyone will be happy with the change.
"I think it's a matter of how we do it," she said. "It's definitely needed."