Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

School early-release days can be a curse or creative

Lee Elementary offers special hands-on activities on early-release Wednesdays. Kindergartener Raul Pacheco, 5, right, waits to shake a bag of rock salt and ice to make ice cream recently.


Lee Elementary offers special hands-on activities on early-release Wednesdays. Kindergartener Raul Pacheco, 5, right, waits to shake a bag of rock salt and ice to make ice cream recently.

We had some interesting reactions to our recent story about — what are we calling them? Late-start Mondays? Sleep-in Mondays? Dude, where's my car?

Okay, a modicum of respect is in order. A volunteer panel worked hard to find a balance between Hillsborough teachers' need for planning time and families' need to have a clue about when school lets out.

Members of the Early Release Days Committee pondered everything from what it's like to have a bagged lunch thrown at you on a compressed Wednesday to the cost of morning child care.

And, though a few people sent angry e-mails to the school district over what this mom wants to call Sorry-boss-I-have-kids Monday, it was nothing compared to the backlash over It's-5-o'clock-Somewhere Wednesday.

Whoa! you say.

But listen to James Robinson of Lithia, whose wife is a former teacher, and who has grandchildren in the local public schools.

"The teachers and the school boards have guaranteed, absolutely guaranteed, a renewed Senate Bill 6," he said, referring to last year's attack on tenure.

"Everyone in the workforce at a salary level does their planning during the course of their workday," he said. "They don't get to come in late on Mondays or get half days on Wednesdays. Teachers need to buck up and look at how the rest of the world works."

Jean Clements, president of the teachers union, has heard this talk about the real world and she says: "Come spend a week with a teacher in a classroom, and I can show you the real world."

It's a world, she said, where teachers are working longer hours, reaching more hard-to-teach students and meeting ever higher standards. Technology has created a greater demand for data about individual students.

Extra periods have been crammed into the day as schools try to, well, I'll say it, catch up with the rest of America.

"Everybody who has done research says that you have to find a way to do planning within the workday," Clements said.

"The real world is, we are doing a much better job than we ever did before, ever."

• • •

While the rest of us talk the issue to death, one school has taken a creative approach.

Lee Elementary School, a central Tampa magnet, sets aside early-release Wednesdays for special hands-on activities.

They call these sessions "enrichment clusters," as they bring together kids from various classes and age groups. Between 9 and 11 a.m., children can choose from chess, Claymation, ceramics and other such endeavors.

"We've been doing clusters for a couple of years," said lead magnet teacher Lara Barone. "But this is the first time we have tried it on half days."

Teachers create PowerPoint displays about the activities, and students get to rank their choices. The change, in part, reflects a desire to fill seats on a day when some parents were just letting their kids stay home.

"We want to make it fun for the students so they will tell their parents, 'No, no, Mom, I need to go to school on that early-release day. I don't want to miss that cluster,' " she said.

And it's working. Early-release day attendance at Lee is consistently higher than elsewhere in the district, Barone said.

The clusters will continue even if early release days go away, she said, though maybe at a different day and time.

• • •

Want to hear more?

The School Board has scheduled a workshop for 10 a.m. Tuesday in the School Board auditorium, 901 E Kennedy Blvd., in Tampa. They'll discuss not only planning time, but other aspects of the calendar that have them befuddled.

For instance: Why would they open the schools on Good Friday, but close them on a weekday so students can somehow transport themselves to east Hillsborough for the Florida State Fair?

We did Student Day at the fair once, and a carnival tent collapsed on my daughter and her friends. It truly did.

I'm blaming them if she doesn't make valedictorian.

Marlene Sokol can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 624-2739.

School early-release days can be a curse or creative 01/20/11 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Lightning edges Red Wings on road

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — The digs were different, the Lightning seeing the masterfully-done new Little Caesar's Arena for the first time.

    Lightning center/Red Wings’ killer Tyler Johnson gets past defenseman Trevor Daley on his way to the first goal of the game.
  2. Armwood pulls away to defeat Plant 27-7, remain undefeated


    SEFFNER — First-year Armwood coach Evan Davis pulled out all the stops to get his team psyched for Monday's annual grudge match against Plant.

    Armwood defensive end Malcolm Lamar (97) gets fired up before the start of the game between Plant High School Panthers and the Armwood High School Hawks in Suffer, Fla. on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017.
  3. Clearwater police: Car thief dead after owner fires gun


    CLEARWATER — One man is dead after the owner of a car fired shots at the thieves who were stealing it Monday night, police said.

  4. Iraqi forces sweep into Kirkuk, checking Kurdish independence drive


    KIRKUK, Iraq — After weeks of threats and posturing, the Iraqi government began a military assault Monday to curb the independence drive by the nation's Kurdish minority, wresting oil fields and a contested city from separatists pushing to break away from Iraq.

    Iraqi security forces patrol Monday in Tuz Khormato, about 45 miles south of Kirkuk, a disputed city that the government seized in response to last month’s Kurdish vote for independence.
  5. Trump and McConnell strive for unity amid rising tensions


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, tried to convey a sense of harmony Monday after months of private feuding that threatened to undermine their party's legislative push in the coming weeks to enact a sweeping tax cut.

    President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell field questions Monday in the Rose Garden of the White House. “We have been friends for a long time,” Trump said.