Pasco County school district ponders student early release days
Concerns that teachers aren't getting enough time to prepare for tougher academic standards and new instructional shifts have prompted Pasco County school district leaders to explore adding regular early release or late start days to the academic calendar.
Still in preliminary stages of review, the idea would go into effect in 2018-19 if district leaders find the potential benefits outweigh the detriments. They'll be surveying principals, teachers and parents, as well as studying districts such as Hillsborough and Manatee that already have early release days in effect.
Assistant superintendent Vanessa Hilton told School Board members that the staff is considering the idea in order to provide common professional development time for teachers, and to reduce the cost of substitutes to get that training done.
"The reason why we would even bother to study this is, we've received lots of inquiries from our schools," Hilton said.
Several issues would need to be resolved before the district could make this move, she noted, including how it would affect student transportation, teacher contracts and other matters. She asked the board for its general support before moving forward.
Superintendent Kurt Browning offered his backing, saying he has been seeking a way to provide the right amount of professional development. He said he would prefer offering late start days, where students come to work about an hour to 90 minutes after teachers arrive, rather than early release days.
"You're fresh, you're new, you haven't started the day yet," Browning observed.
He suggested that parents, many of whom already send their children to school late in the morning because of 9:40 a.m start times, would not be too inconvenienced by such a plan. But the study will show the preferences, he added.
Board members gave the green light to explore the idea. Vice chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong advised that, if the proposal goes through, the district must ensure the professional development is valuable and not make-work.
"I'll look forwad to seeing your study when you've got it done," board member Steve Luikart added.