The Riverside School District is changing the schedule at all its schools this fall, dropping the two-hour late start that happened one or two Wednesdays a month in favor of starting the school day 20 minutes later every day.
Making the decision was a lengthy process that included input from staff, parents and the community, said Superintendent Ken Russell. “We’ve been looking at this for over a year,” he said.
The idea behind having occasional late start days was to allow teachers to collaborate. Having a total of 11 late start days per school year didn’t do that effectively, Russell said. The late starts also weren’t popular with parents.
“We looked at a lot of different models,” he said. “Our community wasn’t really a huge fan of the late starts. It messed up their schedule.”
The old school day started at 7:50 a.m. and ended at 2:30 p.m., which doesn’t match most other districts. Now the school day will begin at 8:10 a.m. “We had one of the earliest starts,” Russell said.
The district’s elementary, middle and high schools share the same campus at 34515 N. Newport Highway in Chattaroy, and all three have the same start and end times.
The district asked for community input and did a poll on social media to get information about the proposed schedule change. In both cases about 75% of those who responded said they liked the idea of changing the school schedule, Russell said. “They liked the idea of not doing the late starts,” he said.
He said most of those who didn’t like the idea said it was because of their work schedule. “We do know we have some people who work in town at 8 o’clock,” he said.
In order to alleviate that concern all schools will continue to open their doors at 7:30 a.m. to allow for early drop-offs, he said. There will be supervised programs before school for all grade levels to keep students occupied. “We have free breakfast at all our schools,” Russell said.
By contract, teachers begin their workday at 7:20 a.m. and that won’t change, Russell said. That gives teachers plenty of time during the week to collaborate and do so in a timelier manner than they could when they could only meet once or twice a month, he said.
The district has a Q&A about the new schedule on its website,
There are a couple of side benefits to the new plan, Russell said. It allows children to sleep in later, and it improves busing, an important issue in a district that spans 185 square miles. Riverside is geographically the third largest district in the state. Under the new school schedule, the morning bus schedule will also shift 20 minutes later.
“The furthest kid is on the bus for an hour,” he said. “We have little kids getting on buses at ungodly early hours.”
Pushing the school start time back by 20 minutes will be particularly helpful in winter, when it gets light later in the morning, he said. That means fewer students will be out in the dark waiting for their bus. “Twenty minutes helps a little in terms of safety,” he said.
But while those benefits are nice, they aren’t why the schedule change was approved by the school board, Russell said.
“The main ‘why’ is to improve teaching and learning,” he said. “We’re excited to give it a shot and try it out.”
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