Meadville Tribune

September 26, 2013

Crawford Central change avoids issue of kids 'herded' into gym before classes

By Mary Spicer
Meadville Tribune

MEADVILLE — Crawford Central School District gained some first-hand experience with the law of unintended consequences — and the resulting changes will be in place at the district’s elementary schools first thing Monday morning.

The law, which holds that actions — especially complicated actions — can be counted upon to have effects that are unintended, unanticipated or both, swung into action when the school day was extended.

As a result of the changes, however, a 20-minute gap emerged between the time students arrive at school and the time they’re allowed to go to their classroom.

In response, Crawford Central Superintendent Charlie Heller told the Tribune during a recent interview that the arrival of the buses will be changed to 8:10 a.m. and the arrival time for teachers will be changed from 8:20 to 8:10 a.m. starting Monday.

The school day starts at 8:30 a.m. A 10-minute adjustment will also be made at the end of the teachers’ school day to main the current number of hours worked per week.

At the beginning of the school year, Heller said, the district made changes in the morning schedule designed to accomplish three goals.

“We wanted to make sure all the buses arrived at the school before the school day started, which was not happening in the past,” he said. “We wanted the students who ate breakfast at school to eat in the cafeteria and not in the classroom, so we needed to get them there a little earlier. We wanted to extend the instructional day.”

As of now, buses are arriving before the school days begin, he said. Students have time to eat breakfast. And the instructional day has been extended by 40 minutes, from 6 hours and 20 minutes last year to 7 hours this year. Because the school day had been extended by 20 minutes the year before, students are now spending an hour more in class than they were two years ago.

“We’ve accomplished all three goals and now we have to tweak it a little,” Heller said.

During Monday’s Crawford Central School Board meeting, school board candidate Jan Filippa complained that students arriving at the elementary schools who were not eating breakfast in the school cafeteria were being “herded into a holding tank,” remaining in each school’s gym between their arrival on buses shortly after 8 a.m. and the arrival of teachers at 8:20 a.m.

While administrators have been aware of the problem, with six different schools in the district’s Meadville attendance area with two completely different runs — there are separate runs for elementary and secondary students, with secondary students picked up at home first in the morning and picked up at school first in the afternoon — making the necessary adjustments in the arrival time has been complicated, according to Heller.

However, the adjustments have finally been worked out. “Come Monday, everything will be the way it should be and everyone will be happy,” Heller said.

The change in elementary arrival times will result in some changes in morning pickup times for students. In all cases, pickup times will be later if they change at all. If significant changes are in store, “we’re making phone calls and sending letters to the parents,” Heller said, noting that if the change is minor — five minutes or less — notifications will be sent home with the students.

The significant changes involved only students attending West End Elementary School and students who were taking transfer buses from First District and Second District elementary schools to Neason Hill Elementary School. Students who had formerly taken the transfer buses will now go directly to Neason Hill.

Except for students who have been taking the transfer buses, drop-off time at the end of the day will be unchanged.

Heller noted that a group of First District parents had expressed their concerns during a recent meeting at the district’s instructional support center.