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Hillsborough school panel considers late starts for Mondays

TAMPA — Got kids? You may also need an understanding boss.

Public schools in Hillsborough County might start an hour later on most Mondays.

A committee empaneled to find alternatives to early-release Wednesdays will recommend that teachers this fall be given planning time for the first hour of one school day a week.

Although the School Board can choose any day, those at Monday's meeting felt the beginning of the week would work best.

They did not come by the recommendation easily. Most preferred to add several teacher planning days to the calendar, but were stopped by the $100 million price tag.

"There is no plan we can come up with that someone will not object to," said parent member Bruce Newman, calling the late-start-Monday idea "an intelligent compromise."

Responding to teacher requests for planning time, the school district began scheduling the early-release days in 2008. They increased in number in 2009 as the district struggled to raise teachers' pay.

Backlash came from parents who felt their children were shortchanged and their jobs were in jeopardy. The committee of school employees and parents has been discussing alternatives since the fall.

Under the option discussed Monday, children who arrive at school at the usual time can take part in early-morning day care and instructional activities.

Scholarships would be available for those who cannot afford the nominal fees.

But buses would run an hour late. That wrinkle could cause problems for parents who rely on bus transportation — particularly in middle school, which starts at 9 a.m.

Dave Crawford, who has one child in Lutz's McKitrick Elementary School and another at Martinez Middle, said he and his wife already leave for work too early to wait for their older child's bus.

"Wow," he said when he heard about the proposed change. In what he acknowledged was a selfish viewpoint, he said he prefers early release days, as his children attend after-care programs.

When asked if teachers need the designated planning time, he said, "every teacher at Martinez and McKitrick is wonderful, and a lot of us think of it as our own private school. I have nothing bad to say. But, man! When you think of your job and my job, everybody gets work thrown upon them. Why is that any different?"

Committee members said that, although a handful of parents have objected to the late-start idea, far more seem opposed to the early-release days.

Among the benefits of a late start: Lunchtime will not be disrupted. After-school activities will not need to be rescheduled. And people will be less likely to use the flawed label "half days."

"One hour is a very different mind-set than two," said Melissa Erickson, president of the Hillsborough Council of PTAs and co-chairwoman of the committee.

The School Board will discuss the plan, and other calendar-related issues, at a workshop Jan. 25.

Member Candy Olson said she would prefer planning time during the regular school day, without a disruption to the schedule, and with the children engaged in educational activities while the teachers are meeting.

"We have to work with the teachers," she said. "But we also have an obligation to work with the community."

Marlene Sokol can be reached at sokol@sptimes.com or (813) 624-2739.

Hillsborough school panel considers late starts for Mondays 01/10/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 7:48am]
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