ELKHART — When the Elkhart School Board decided to end the school day 45 minutes earlier on Wednesdays, some parents were concerned about how the shorter day might affect their families.
“The people this is going to negatively affect are the working parents, the people who have to figure out child care,” Tricia Davis, president of the Pinewood Elementary PTO, said a few days after the school board made its decision on Nov. 26.
But Elkhart schools spokeswoman Shawn Hannon said that the school system does have options in place for child care.
“At 11 elementaries, where we already have child care, parents can register for child care and there will be no fee for Wednesday afternoons only,” Hannon said.
She specified that only families who were already using after-school care would not be charged for the additional 45 minutes. Families who do not usually use after-school care but may need it on the early release Wednesdays should contact their school principals about options, Hannon added.
She added that Beardsley and Osolo schools have a Boys and Girls Club, and the club will be able to accommodate students 45 minutes earlier on Wednesdays. Roosevelt, which is transitioning to a STEAM-focused school, is not doing an early release on Wednesday and won’t need additional child care options.
Hannon said that the school corporation doesn’t anticipate that many extra students will need child care on Wednesdays, because not many parents have called with questions about the shorter day.
“Students who usually ride the bus home, we anticipate that they will continue to ride the bus home,” she said, adding, “Some families will be right in that time frame where (the schedule with the shorter day) won’t work out. Those students, it may be a case where they go to after care, and the parent comes to pick them up later.”
Ryon Wheeler, director of the Boys and Girls Club of Elkhart County, said that the club tries to adapt to the school’s schedule.
“Whatever the school schedule does, we will be there for the kids,” he said. “We understand the schools have a tough, tough job.”
While Wednesdays will be shorter starting Jan. 8 — to allow staff time for collaboration —the other school days are still longer than last school year.
Elementary students had 70 minutes added to their school day at the beginning of the 2013-14 year, and a typical school day runs from 8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m.
That longer day is what’s hard for families, said Davis, who has three children ages 10 and younger in Elkhart schools.
“My kids are exhausted, and there’s not a lot of family time,” Davis said, explaining that she picks her children up at school and they get home around 4:10 p.m.
“I have kids that like school — but they are just tired,” she said.
Another parent, Heidi Sigman, likes the idea of her 9-year-old getting out of school early one day a week.
“I think it’s odd that it’s one day a week, but I think it’s awesome for the teachers,” she said. “If they don’t have that time to prep they get run down.”
She also thinks that her son has significantly less homework this year because of the longer school days.
“Last year, in second grade he had two hours of homework, and this year he has about a half hour,” she said.