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News >  K-12 education

Cheney district revamps school hours after complaints last year

July 20, 2022 Updated Wed., July 20, 2022 at 10:18 a.m.

By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

The Cheney School District is again altering school times in the hopes of making schedules easier for parents to manage.

Starting in the fall, the schedule will have Cheney Middle School, Westwood Middle School and Cheney High School starting at 7:50 a.m. and ending at 2:30 p.m. Classes at Salnave Elementary will run from 7:50 a.m. to 2:20 p.m.

Betz, Snowden, Sunset and Windsor elementary schools will all run from 8:50 a.m. to 3:20 p.m. The district’s HomeWorks program will operate from 8:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. and Three Springs High School will run from 8:05 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.

During the 2021-2022 school year, the district changed school start and stop times to cope with a bus driver shortage. At that time, the start and end times for Betz, Snowdon, Sunset and Windsor elementary schools were set to 7:50 a.m. and 2:20 p.m. Salnave Elementary started at 8:35 a.m. and ended at 3:05 p.m. Cheney and Westwood middle schools and Cheney High School started at 8:55 a.m. and ended at 3:35 p.m.

Staggered starting times are still necessary, Superintendent Ben Ferney said.

“The realities that required the adjustment to a staggered schedule remain, and as our district grows will continue to challenge our community,” Ferney wrote in a recent Facebook post.

Ferney said last year’s changes didn’t go smoothly for some.

“The staggered schedule was a change for many families in Cheney Public Schools,” Ferney said in an emailed statement. “In the spring, we gathered feedback from students, staff and families to understand the needs of our students and community.”

Feedback from parents indicated there were problems with having secondary schools start after the elementary schools, Ferney wrote on Facebook.

“Some common concerns were child care for elementary students, student inability to access employment, and missed class time for athletics/extracurricular activities for secondary students due to their later release time,” Ferney wrote. “Data also showed that an earlier start and end time would reduce by approximately 50% the number of classes missed by students participating in sports and extracurriculars at Cheney High School (and both middle schools).

“Our hope for the coming year is that the staggered start will function better for our students overall and provide the best opportunity for participating in athletics and clubs. The new schedule will be an adjustment and we believe that this schedule will better serve the needs of our students.”

Parents immediately began commenting on the district’s Facebook post, raising concerns about the new schedule before it begins.

Parent Jeannette Davison wrote, “Going to be interesting to see how many middle school students are late because they are the only child care for elementary school siblings.”

Another parent raised an issue unique to families at Salnave Elementary School.

“Doesn’t allow parents to get the kids to Salnave and the middle school on time without dropping a child off early,” Whitney Norred wrote.

Other parents were concerned about the starting time for most elementary schools.

“8:50 start time? What are families going to do with their elementary kids when parents have to work at 8 a.m.?” J.P. Stanek wrote.

Parent Nicholas Chipps agrees with Stanek’s concerns. He has two children attending Windsor Elementary, which will begin at 8:50 a.m.

“Whose work schedule starts that late?” Chipps said. “It makes it impossible and now we have to pay for day care in the morning for an hour or two just so they can ‘stagger’ start times.”

Chipps said his children’s school does not offer a child care program before school. He said he has not heard back from anyone in the district and there are no responses to parents on the district’s Facebook post.

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