ELKHART — Elkhart students will get out of school 45 minutes earlier on Wednesdays, starting Jan. 8, 2014.
This change was approved by the school board during its regular meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 26. Teachers and administrators plan to use that 45 minutes to meet with each other and talk about better ways to reach students.
Priscilla Jamora, a lunch monitor at Pinewood Elementary School and mother of two fourth grade students, said Tuesday that the school day should not be shortened mid-year.
She also suggested that teachers don’t have the time they need to collaborate because of the focus on ISTEP testing.
School board member Glenn Duncan pointed out that schools are required to focus on testing and standards by the state.
Mindy Shaw, principal of Pinewood, and Sara Jackowiak, principal of North Side Middle School, both spoke in favor of the early release.
“The time within the school day is just not there to walk down the hallway and see what is going on in other classrooms,” Jackowiak said.
Alex Holtz, president of the Elkhart Teacher’s Association, said that “it’s difficult to make the switch mid-year but we hope it is the right decision for students and teachers, to make that difficult decision now.”
School board member Dorisanne Nielsen said the change is necessary to help students “be the best they can be.”
“It’s a have-to,” she said of the new schedule.
In an interview prior to Tuesday’s meeting, Superintendent Rob Haworth said that the same material will be taught, but in a shorter amount of time.
“Classes will run a little shorter, similar to what we do on a two-hour delay day,” he said.
Students involved in athletic teams or clubs will go to study hall while teachers are in collaboration time, Haworth added.
He also mentioned that he had received two “very polite” emails from parents about the proposed change. These parents were concerned about child care issues relating to the shorter school day.
When considering the shorter school day, the corporation surveyed teachers, administrators and some parents about doing either a late start or an early release.