Pinellas parents caught off guard by early school days next year
Did you realize all Pinellas County schools will close one hour early every Wednesday next year? Don't feel bad if this is news to you. Since I work at the newspaper, I was aware when the news first broke a month ago and there was quite a bit of lively debate attached to the story on our newspaper's site at least.
But I was surprised by how many really active parents and even a substitute teacher I talked with last week were unaware that one of the changes coming next year is a one-hour early release every Wednesday to allow teachers some planning time.
As you can read in today's paper the new contract was approved yesterday for Pinellas teachers. It was a close 4-3 vote in part because there was a last-minute surge of e-mails and calls from parents who were only recently made aware of this.
According to the story:
Board chairwoman Peggy O'Shea expressed concern that parents weren't brought in on the discussion regarding the early-release day.
"We've gotten quite a bit of feedback on it, and I've yet to find somebody who wants it, including teachers," she said. "There are concerns that there has not been a meeting of the minds."
There was an e-mail sent out by a concerned parent to parents on the day of the vote that raised many questions: What happens to students who have Gifted class on Wednesdays? Will this time come out of art or music on those days? How will teachers work in state-mandated P.E. class and lunch and still have meaningful teaching time? And most important for parents: Will after-school child care cost more?
School Board member Linda Lerner said those are all good questions, but they come too late.
"If we do not approve this contract, it goes back to bargaining," Lerner said. "I know it's not a perfect agreement, but I hope we can work together to improve it if necessary."
Board member Janet Clark disagreed.
"The time to make the contract right is before it's signed," Clark said. "I'm sorry there has been work that's gone into this, but we can't just jump into it without making sure all the i's are dotted and all the t's are crossed."
So there you have it. Parents really need to pay closer attention to school news. And it sure wouldn't have hurt for the school district to send a letter home alerting parents to the change before it's apparently set in stone.
Since they didn't do it for you ahead of time, we'll provide you this link to all the school start times on the School Board's Web site today. It's not just the early Wednesdays that are changing. Some elementaries are starting an hour later next year.
Our friends over at The Gradebook blog are still trying to sort it all out for us. Check it out here.
-- Sharon Kennedy Wynne