Late school start gets 2nd chance

After complaints from parents and praise from teachers last year, Rock Hill schools are making plans to give delayed start school days a second chance.

Classes will start two hours late six times this school year, giving teachers time to work together.

Delayed-start professional development time is set aside specifically for teacher collaboration, rather than other workdays when many teachers spend time grading papers and holding conferences.

"What I'm hoping for is that by tightening up the operational side of our late start days and having a lot of planning going into what we're doing those days and knowing that we've got all the teachers on board, that we'll be able to convince the public that this is a worthwhile endeavor," school board Chairman Bob Norwood said.

A major concern for parents last year was that middle and high school students started late, while elementary schools let out early. They also had a different number of professional development days.

All schools will start two hours late on delayed start days this year.

Plans have been made for how each late start day will be used.

At the middle and high school levels, the goal is to develop curriculum maps by the end of the year. Curriculum maps outline what will be taught when, and how much time should be spent on each unit.

Mapping is designed to get students in different sections of the same courses on the same page and to make sure students learn all of the information they need to pass required tests.

Elementary school maps were made last year, so those principals and teachers will follow their maps to see if they are being adhered to and then develop common performance assessments.

"The principals now have the ability to monitor and pace all of the curriculum," Rich Melzer, executive director of elementary education, told the school board at its meeting Monday.

To keep the school board up to speed on what teachers are doing, board members will be updated on the outcomes of the late start work sessions, said Sheila Huckabee, executive director of secondary education. Teachers also will fill out an evaluation survey after each session.

Although the focus is on curriculum mapping right now, Norwood said late start days will continue to be useful once that process is complete.

"I think that there are just an endless number of things that teachers can collaborate on," he said. "I don't think there will ever be a shortage of topics to discuss when it comes to working together on the curriculum."