By Kristy Zurbrick
Starting this fall, school days at Madison-Plains Local Schools will start later and last longer.
On July 16, the school board approved new school hours. Each day will start at 7:50 a.m. and end at 3:10 p.m. Last year, the school day ran from 7:30 a.m. to 2:20 p.m. Hours apply to all grades, preK-12.
With the new hours, students will be at school 30 minutes longer than in the past. Over the course of a school year, that’s the equivalent of adding 12 days of school, said Superintendent Bernie Hall.
The time change is an action item on the district’s improvement plan. Hall said data shows that students perform better academically with a later start to the day.
District and building administrators who attended the board meeting said they support the later start and the longer day.
“There’s more time for intervention for all students,” said Trish Passwaters, special education director.
Kim LeGault, principal at the middle school, said the schedule allows more time for teachers to plan and collaborate.
Not everyone at the meeting liked the change. Alyce Baker, a resident of the district and member of the district’s impact committee, presented the board with a petition opposing the new hours.
A total of 63 registered voters who live in the district signed the petition, stating that the change would be “detrimental to the students and this community.”
Baker has two children who attend Madison-Plains.
Without new instruction time built into the schedule, she said she sees the longer school day as simply “extra time for study hall” for students who do not need intervention.
She said other residents signed the petition for a variety of reasons. Some are concerned about the impact on before- and after-school child care. Some worry about time conflicts with extracurricular activities, including sports.
Others point to districts whose students are performing well academically with shorter school days.
The school board heard Baker’s comments early in the meeting and asked for input from administrators at several points throughout the meeting.
Committees working toward improvement in the district made the recommendation for the time change. Members of those committees include teachers, principals, administrators, parents and other community members.
The board approved the new hours as part of the 2013-14 student/parent handbook.