District 15 is still accepting surveys from parents who would like to weigh in on proposed schedule changes for the 2013-2014 school year, but the deadline is Monday, January 21.
The changes are due to a contractual agreement between the school district and the Classroom Teachers' Council, with a goal to provide development and devoted training time for teachers.
All of the four proposals will affect either starting or ending times for the school day, the offering of school activities, and based on feedback especially from working parents, prove difficult to maneuver if they are expected to bring their children to school 40 minutes later one day a week.
A few parents spoke out about their dissatisfaction in the proposal itself at the Tuesday school board meeting, as well as how they believe the proposals weren't handled as well they could have been by the school district.
"We as parents and taxpayers fully support teachers and administrators to increase the level of education provided for our children," said Lisa Szczupaj, a District 15 parent who has spearheaded a Change.org petition to encourage the district to look at a Friday early release, instead of Mondays or Wednedsays, as presented in the survey.
"We understand teacher enrichment time has already been contracted, what we are not happy with are the days and times put in front of us," Szczupaj said.
Szczupaj in her petition on Change.org, suggests that a Friday early release should be considered. That option was not included in the four scenarios presented by District 15 administration in the survey.
District 15 Superintendent Scott Thompson said Fridays were not an optimal time for teacher trainings to be held.
"Friday [early release was] ruled out, teachers have exerted a lot of energy during the week, we didn’t think they would get the best use of instructional time. That’s why we didn’t put it in the survey," Thompson said.
"We are insisting [that a Friday early release] be considered, that this time be given without lost instruction time. As parents, we know that students' focus on Friday afternoon is not optimal," Szcaupaj said.
"We are very confident adults can probably work through that. We are confident that adults are better able to focus, thus Friday afternoon training would be more optimal for students," Szczupaj said.
She went on to state that programming, tutoring, sports and other school activities important to the emotional, educational and social growth of children would be affected-if the Friday early release option was not considered.
"There is no [after school] programming on Friday, why not Friday? It is our feeling your survey does not have not an accurate reflection of what the community wants," Szczupaj said.
She cited the more than 220 individuals who as of Tuesday, signed the petition on Change.org. As of this writing, 261 people have signed it.
"I urge the board to set the time for Friday afternoon. You would be well served, and parental and taxpayer support will be behind you," she said.
Kathy Van Brunt, also a District 15 parent, said the district should have involved public input in the survey before it was presented.
"We are being asked to alter our life, family, and work schedules. There are better ways to accomplish this without affecting the community," Van Brunt said.
Van Brunt offered a number of reasons the four options presented in the District 15 survey don't work for many parents in the form of a punch-list:
- Employment issues-asking parents to adjust work schedules one day a week is, "ridiculous and impossible," Van Brunt said.
- Families shouldn’t be expected to incur extra daycare costs.
- Students need consistent schedules to address needs for themselves and their families, this creates unnecessary stress on the community.
- Early start times require children to get up earlier, and that is asking too much.
- Safety, Van Brunt said, it is not optimal to be waiting at bus stops when it’s not light out.
- Child care options, also cited by Van Brunt, offere more choices after school than before.
Van Brunt also presented a solution for the board of education to consider.
"Keep the early start time [survey option], and the school day can be extended by ten minutes. On Fridays, children can be released 40 minutes early, and teachers will still be finished at 2:25 p.m., the same time their day ends right now," Van Brunt said.
This pays credence to child development, economic and social affects this proposal threatens, Van Brunt said.
"The overall theme in all of this is that the administration created a survey angled toward teacher needs, and not student needs," she said.
Jim Garwood, deputy superintendent for District 15 said that if a 40 minute early start option is implemented, a supervised setting would be offered for children whose parents must be at work.
"We envision it would be offered for a nominal fee," Garwood said.
Garwood said there would be no possiblity, however, of busing students who would need to arrive to school early, if a late start schedule were implemented to provide for teacher training time.
The board of education has scheduled a communication forum on the subject for Saturday, January 26 from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. at Walter Sundling Jr. High School, 1100 N. Smith Street.