Confident that most parents support the change, Bauder Elementary School has decided to cut the school day short once a week to give teachers more opportunities for training and planning.
This fall, students will leave school about two hours early one day and spend an extra 30 minutes in class the remaining four days of each week.
Educators think the schedule will lead to better student performance by giving teachers uninterrupted time to share strategies, analyze test scores and attend training sessions.
"It's an absolutely outstanding way to work," said Cathy Athanson, the area superintendent who supervises Bauder.
Bauder teachers now have about 45 minutes of planning time each day. But much of that time is spent shuttling students to elective classes, grading papers and returning phone calls, principal Carol Thomas said.
"Having that uninterrupted time will make a big difference," she said.
Some parents, though, say the change will make their lives difficult by forcing them to make new arrangements for picking their children up after school.
"I don't have the type of job where I can leave at noon one day a week every week," said Kathy Hansen, who has two sons at Bauder. She is a part-time sales representative for a manufacturing company who works the same hours as the current Bauder schedule.
Hansen objected to the plan during a series of meetings Bauder held this spring. Bauder administrators decided to move forward after a poll.
Surveys were sent to the 785 families with children at Bauder. Of the 424 parents who responded, 142 said yes to the idea, 154 said they could live with it and 128 said they could not support it.
About 80 percent of the staff backed the change, Thomas said. And the School Advisory Council, which includes parents, staff and community members, unanimously supported it.
"At first, I was like, "What? Change the schedule?' ' parent Sharon Yergler said. "But the more Dr. Thomas gave us information about what it entailed for teachers, and what they would use it for, I totally jumped on the bandwagon."
The details of the plan have not been worked out. The school does not know yet which days will be longer and which will be shorter. That will be decided by the end of the school year, after Thomas meets with transportation supervisors.
Third-grade teacher Marlene Logemann likes the idea of having two student-free hours to plan and share strategies. But she worries the longer days will be tough on the youngest students. And she hopes the extra time won't be chewed up by administrative meetings.
Athanson, the area superintendent, is convinced the schedule will be good for the school.
She was principal at Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Elementary in Pinellas Park until earlier this year. That school, and Frontier Elementary near Largo, already send students home early once a week.
"I can tell you it makes a dramatic impact on being able to effectively implement strategies and techniques," Athanson said.
Since Thomas notified parents of the change earlier this month, just one parent has called to complain.
Hansen said she thinks most parents are determined to make the schedule work for their families.
"It's not going to be an easy thing for us, but we're going to have to do it because Bauder is such a wonderful school," Hansen said. "The school is why we live here."