By Mary Spicer
The Meadville Tribune
VERNON TOWNSHIP —
“We need more minutes for instruction at the elementary level,” Superintendent Charlie Heller told members of Crawford Central School Board during their monthly work session Monday night. “We need more time in the classroom — other districts have longer days.”
With that, Heller presented a proposal to extend the school day at First District, Second District, Neason Hill and West End elementary schools by 40 minutes and Cochranton Elementary School by 20 minutes. The proposal also shortens the official day at all the district’s secondary facilities by a minute.
Starting and ending times will be adjusted accordingly.
Under the proposal, the elementary school day for students in the Meadville attendance area would be 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Cochranton from 8:10 a.m. to 3:05 p.m. Elementary teachers would be on duty from 8:20 a.m. to 3:50 p.m. in Meadville and 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in Cochranton.
The secondary school day for Meadville students would be from 7:30 a.m. to 2:40 p.m. and Cochranton from 7:59 a.m. to 2:52 p.m. Secondary teachers in Meadville would be on duty from 7:20 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. while in Cochranton the hours for teachers would be from 7:49 a.m. to 3:19 p.m.
The student schedule would include two-hour delays in September, November, January, March and May and two-hour early dismissals in October, December, February and April to allow time for teacher activities including faculty meetings, department meetings, grade-level meetings, professional development, mandated Act 126 training, Pennsylvania System of School Assessment preparation and survey completion. In addition, teachers would be allowed to leave five minutes after students are dismissed on Fridays or before a holiday.
A resolution authorizing the change is expected to be on the agenda for the board’s monthly meeting, which starts at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the district’s instructional support center in Vernon Township. Heller said the proposal has already been presented to the district’s teachers.
Board member Frank Schreck said he would not be able to support the change unless the five two-hour delays were removed from the schedule because he has heard the sessions described as “two hours of coffee-and-donut time.”
Heller disagreed, noting that the current morning sessions have proved to be valuable for both teachers and principals.
Because the current 7.5-hour working day for teachers will remain unchanged, there will be no additional cost to the district, Heller said. The additional elementary class time will reduce the length of time between student dismissal and the end of the teacher day in Meadville from one hour to 20 minutes. and in Cochranton from 45 minutes to 25 minutes.
Heller noted that the extended school day will add an additional 120 hours per year to the approximately 940 hours elementary students are now spending in their classrooms. Noting that the change will add 840 hours of class time over the course of the seven years ordinarily spent in elementary school and that Pennsylvania requires a minimum of only 900 elementary classroom hours per year, putting the change into place will add the equivalent of almost a year of instruction to the elementary experience of each student.
Buses transporting Crawford Central students make separate runs for elementary and secondary students. In addition to increasing class time, the change will also increase the time between bus runs, eliminating a current problem of students being dropped off late and picked up early at the elementary and secondary levels.
“The time differential between runs are timed to make sure they get there on time,” Dave Dickson, the district’s supervisor of buildings, grounds and transportation, said, speaking of the proposed schedule.
The change will also mean that secondary students will arrive home in the afternoon before younger siblings, Heller added. At the current time, secondary students start school in the morning before elementary students and end their classes later in the afternoon.
What to watch for next
Formal discussion, and perhaps a vote, on increasing the instruction time for elementary school students in Crawford Central School District is expected to be on the agenda for the school board’s monthly meeting, which starts at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the district’s instructional support center in Vernon Township.