Make us your home page
Instagram

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.

STEPHEN J. CODDINGTON | Times

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 sokol@sptimes.com 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

Loading...
  1. Video: How to make a pinhole projector if you didn't score eclipse glasses

    Space

    CAPE CANAVERAL — Solar glasses are a must for safe viewing of Monday's total solar eclipse, the first to span coast to U.S. coast in 99 years.

    Follow these simple instructions to make a pinhole projector out of a cereal box. [Photo from video]
  2. Walmart expands grocery delivery service to Tampa

    Retail

    TAMPA — Walmart is expanding its grocery delivery service to Tampa, the company announced Monday. Five locations will offer delivery for online grocery orders.

    Walmart is expanding its grocery delivery to Tampa, the company announced Monday. | [Times file photo]
  3. Lt. Gov. Lopez-Cantera won't run for Congress

    Blogs

    Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera has decided not to run for Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat in Congress, though he may seek another office in 2020.

    Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.
  4. From the food editor: 'MasterChef' winner Shaun O'Neale talks cooking at Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival

    Cooking

    There are certain reliable signs that fall is on the way. Nothing in the weather department, of course, but other markers that usher in the celebratory final months of the year. One of those things is the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, which happens annually in Orlando, seemingly longer and more jam-packed …

    Chicken Wings with Sweet Potato Puree. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.
  5. Mike Evans stands behind Michael Bennett

    Blogs

    Bucs receiver Mike Evans was signing autographs for children after Bucs practice on Saturday. As he signed, he talked about Seattle defensive and former Buc Michael Bennett, who last Friday sat during the national anthem and who says he will continue to do so to fight racial injustice.

    Mike Evans, left, hauls in a pass in front of cornerback Vernon Hargreaves.