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No end in sight for Hillsborough's school calendar debate



TAMPA -- Today didn't appear to be a very fun day for members of Hillsborough's early-release committee.

The School Board-appointed panel spent months crafting a plan to solve the district's calendar woes, and specifically, the troubles created for parents by 12 early-release days inserted into the teacher contract for meetings and planning time last summer.

But their solution -- starting school an hour late on most Mondays next year -- landed with a thud at a board workshop this morning.

District staff and principals predicted all sorts of potential problems with the plan, including costs and availability of staff for supervision. They said those problems would be particularly acute if school buses ran at their normal times in the morning, instead of being delayed by an hour.

To be fair, no one actually explained why it would be necessary for school buses to roll at the normal hour, even if classes were delayed on Mondays. But that didn't stop officials from warning of dire outcomes if they did.

Tampa Bay Tech principal Scott Brooks said he'd have to supervise 2,100 students with half a dozen staff while other teachers met.

"I don't like that ratio," he said. "Sometimes the big kids don't make really good decisions, either."

Committee co-chairwoman Melissa Erickson said she didn't anticipate such objections.

"The idea of transporting kids at the same time is kind of a curveball for us," she said. "We never discussed kids showing up at the regular time."

District staff said they would research the proposal and make a recommendation for a future board meeting. 

Board member Candy Olson, who attended several of the early-release committee's meetings, said she was hoping for a detailed plan that would address parents' concerns, provide teachers with adequate planning time, and keep kids safe. But she couldn't predict what form such a plan might take.

"Anything's possible," she said.

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