District to adopt early releases

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Beginning next school year, Steamboat Springs students will get out early once a month to give staff more planning time.

Under the early release schedule, students will be dismissed at about 1:15 p.m. on the third Wednesday of every month of the school year except December. Teachers and support staff will remain at the school to plan, collaborate and take advantage of professional development opportunities.

The district's leadership team made the decision Thursday after several years of considering an early release or late start schedule. Steamboat Springs High School has done late start for the past couple of years, and district officials have been interested in adopting the schedule districtwide.

In an effort to make the change as easy as possible for families, the district opted for early release instead of late start, Superintendent Donna Howell said. The high school also will switch to early release.

One of the biggest concerns in implementing a districtwide early release program was the effect it would have on families who would need child care for their students on early dismissal days. The district will work with the Steamboat Springs Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department on potential youth programs for those days, Howell said. The district also plans to work with local child-care providers.

"We're trying to accommodate families as best we can," Howell said.

The district won't provide child care or after-school programs on early release days.

Balancing district officials' concerns about the effect early release would have on families was the need to provide more time for teachers and support staff to work and plan with one another, Howell said.

"I think the consensus from everybody was that we need the time," she said. "We've been doing it at the high school, and now we'll be able to do it at our other schools.

"What we wanted to do is get the decision made so we could communicate with parents."

The new schedule will reduce the number of student contact hours, but the district still will be significantly above the state's requirement for contact days and hours, Howell said.

A parent and staff survey conducted two years ago provided mixed results for interest in a late start schedule. According to the survey results, 52 percent of respondents supported late start, 21 percent supported late start only if the district provided alternative activities for students, and 27 percent didn't support late start.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234 or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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