Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Back To The Future – Part II

Kenneth M. O’Brien

Yesterday (March 21) I submitted a post to Speak Out Southbridge titled “Lean Forward, Southbridge!

In it I asked the readers of Dennis Martinek’s blog to come forward with positive and constructive ideas to improve Southbridge. I pointed out proposals that had already been made by Dennis, Debby Gregoire-Lefebvre and Brent Abrahamson, as well as myself.

I have been very gratified by the substantial and thoughtful ideas that have already been proposed. I hope that many more will submit concrete and specific ideas rather than vague platitudes like “reduce taxes”, “cut water and sewer rates” or “bring in new businesses”.

I would like to add to the discussion by repeating a proposal that I made in 2008, while I was still on the council.

During the budget review of the proposed school department budget I proposed that we might consider going from a five-day school week to a four-day school week. In order to meet state requirements, each of the four-day sessions would be expanded by an hour and a half.

The motivation for the proposal was the dramatic increases in oil prices that impacted transportation and heating costs.  There was also the ancillary prospective benefit of reduced insurance expenses.

I was roundly ridiculed for this proposal.

Today we are witnessing the same level of oil prices. We have also seen ever-dramatic increases in insurance costs.

However, something has been added to the discussion.

The additional factor is an article that appeared in Time Magazine only four months after I made my proposal. That article pointed out that 15% of the school districts in America had adopted just such a plan.

Not only were the financial savings substantial. Many districts also experienced a substantial reduction in absenteeism.

With budget season currently upon us, coupled with even greater constraints on our financial resources, perhaps it is time to reconsider my “crazy” idea.

4 comments:

  1. Does the school year go by "days" only or by the number of hours? What I mean is would the school year be longer because there would be four days a week instead of five?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have checked on this, both now and then and it is based upon the total number of hours.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Excerpt-

    Education Laws and Regulations

    603 CMR 27.00:

    27.03: School Year Requirements

    (2) Every school committee shall schedule a school year which includes at least 185 school days at each elementary, middle, and secondary school within the school district.

    (3) Every school committee shall operate the schools within its district at least 180 school days in a school year.

    ReplyDelete
  4. 603 CMR 27.00:
    Student Learning Time provides that,

    ”27.04: Structured Learning Time Requirements
    (1) No later than the 1997 - 1998 school year, schools shall ensure that every elementary school student is scheduled to receive a minimum of 900 hours per school year of structured learning time, as defined in 603 CMR 27.02. Time which a student spends at school breakfast and lunch, passing between classes, in homeroom, at recess, in non-directed study periods, receiving school services, and participating in optional school programs shall not count toward meeting the minimum structured learning time requirement for that student.
    (2) No later than the 1997 - 1998 school year, all schools shall ensure that every secondary school student is scheduled to receive a minimum of 990 hours per school year of structured learning time, as defined in 603 CMR 27.02. Time which a student spends at school breakfast and lunch, passing between classes, in homeroom, at recess, in non-directed study periods, receiving school services, and participating in optional school programs shall not count toward meeting the minimum structured learning time requirement for that student.”
    It is also provided that:

    “27.03: School Year Requirements
    (2) Every school committee shall schedule a school year which includes at least 185 school days at each elementary, middle, and secondary school within the school district.
    (3) Every school committee shall operate the schools within its district at least 180 school days in a school year.”

    It is also provided that:

    ”27.06: Waivers
    (1) The Board of Education may, upon the written application of a school committee and the recommendation of the Commissioner of Education, grant a waiver of any requirements set forth in 603 CMR 27.00 for good cause. School committees are encouraged to apply for waivers, as needed, to permit the district to initiate innovative programs or schedules intended to improve student learning.
    (2) Upon the written request of a school district, the Commissioner of Education may, in his discretion, grant a waiver of the minimum school year requirement set forth in 603 CMR 27.03(3) in situations where an emergency or extraordinary circumstance forces the closing of one or more of the district's schools.”

    Insofar as the fundamental issue appears to be “learning time”, and the provision exists for waivers that, under the current circumstances that I have suggested constitute “good cause” the spirit of the CMR as well as contradictory standards for hours and days have been resolved to the benefit of the community, the students and the teachers. One would hope that the DOE would see it the same way.

    ReplyDelete

All comments subject to moderation. All commenters must use their own name or a screen name. No comments labelled as "Anonymous" will be published. To use your name or a screen name select "Name/URL" from the drop down menu. Insert you name in the "Name" space and leave the "URL" space blank.