Friday, March 7, 2008
CCHS studies alternatives to earlier start time
Will starting the day earlier be popular with high school students and teachers? The Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS) continues to grapple with how to expand the school day to best meet state requirements of 990 annual hours of learning time. The Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee (RSC) agreed in January to start school ten minutes earlier at 7:25 a.m., and end three minutes later in the afternoon starting next fall, but asked members of the school’s Time and Learning Committee to continue investigating alternatives. At the February 26 RSC meeting, CCHS teacher Cricket McCaffrey-Clark presented additional information on options and constraints.
Principal Peter Badalament had asked the committee to see if they could extend the high school day during the 24 Early Release Tuesdays in Concord, when there would be no conflict with buses usually needed for the Concord elementary schools. By keeping CCHS students in class until 3:02 p.m., almost an hour later, he hoped to restore a five-minute passing time, the time between classes, which is planned to be cut to four minutes to help meet the state requirement.
The Time on Learning Committee is against the possibility of extending the high school day on Early Release Tuesdays, at least for the next school year, but will consider it again in the future. “The minuses outweigh the pluses,” said McCaffrey-Clark. “It would mean a substantial change in working conditions.”
McCaffrey-Clark reviewed possibilities for using extra time on Tuesdays. Currently, the school day is divided into seven blocks and students meet for a specific class four out of five days. The Time on Learning Committee looked at lengthening the non-lunch blocks of a seven-block day. The problem with this is that classes held during lunch blocks would get short shrift. The committee also looked at an eight-block day on the extended Tuesdays. However, that would mean that a particular class would get 24 more meetings and would be way ahead of class sections held at other times during the day. McCaffrey-Clark pointed out, “That would be equal to four weeks of school periods more for that class.”
RSC member Jan McGinn asked if the teachers liked the present schedule. McCaffrey-Clark responded, “We don’t love the schedule we have. We say the pluses outweigh the minuses.” She explained, “To fix the schedule, we need a new building. There are not enough classrooms, labs or lunchroom space.” As an example of how the space shortage limits options, she described a 4x4 block schedule used by some high schools. Because the schedule requires all students to be in a class at all times with no study halls, she said, “That won’t work here.” She continued, “We are really tight on classroom space. As you get creative [with the schedule], you need more space.”
Buses constrain scheduling
Badalament said the main problem in getting to the 990 required hours is transportation. “If we solve that, we could expand the day later. It would get us a long way.” Specifically he said there would be problems scheduling buses that get CCHS athletes to games or meets on those extended days. In addition, all departmental meetings and faculty meetings that fell on those extended days would also have to change. It would be harder to see students after school on those days.
The transportation problem could be solved by investing $1.4 million in buses, so different buses could be used for high school and Concord elementary schools. McGinn was adamant, “I won’t write the check to pay for $1.4 million in buses.”
Several RSC members stated that more work has to be done to see if a better schedule can be achieved. Badalament concluded, “We expect to work during 2008-2009 to make the schedule better.” ∆
© 2008 The