Editorials

Finding a replacement for late start program

Rock Hill teachers need time designated for training and the exchange of ideas. But late start is not the answer.

The late start program, which has been in effect in the school district for the past nine years, seemed like a logical solution to carving out time from the school day for training. On one Wednesday each month, the beginning of the school day was delayed for two hours so teachers and principals could attend professional development sessions.

But the program proved to be a significant burden for many parents throughout the district. Instead of the regular daily routine, parents had to find ways to supervise their children for those two hours and then get them to school.

This was tough for working parents. Some had to resort to taking vacation time to watch over their kids until the school doors opened. Others had to enlist day care or a willing family member or friend to supervise their children.

Driving children to school also could be a chore, especially when families had students attending different schools. While schools allowed students to be dropped off at the regular time and supervised there, that solution didn’t work for everyone.

Among the first decisions by Superintendent Kelly Pew after taking over last year was to re-evaluate late start. She conducted a survey of 3,100 parents and district employees to see what they thought of the program.

The conclusion: Most parents hate it. About 75 percent of the parents surveyed opposed the program. Even among teachers, only 54 percent approved of late start.

So, Pew, to her credit, responded with a recommendation to the school board to discontinue late start. And if the board concurs, late start days will vanish from the 2015-2016 school calendar.

But that will leave teachers with no time designated specifically to training. Teacher work days, when children don’t attend, traditionally are devoted to parent conferences, filling out report cards and other work, which affords little time for professional development.

Setting aside time in the afternoon also is difficult. After-school activities interfere, and teachers often have other commitments.

The district might try to schedule training days during the summer, but that, too, could interfere with planned vacations or other activities.

Pew notes that finding the equivalent of the two hours a month gained by late start will be tough. But she is determined to try.

We think teachers and administrators need time for training. But the first priority was addressing the dissatisfaction of the community with late start.

We commend Pew for listening to parents and recognizing that a problem existed. Her approach to evaluating that problem was systematic, and the results were convincing.

Late start is unpopular with three-quarters of parents and nearly half the district’s teachers. It’s time to try something else.

In summary

Teacher training is important but the discontent with the late start program is so high, the school district needs to discontinue it and seek alternatives.

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