Further research supports longer elementary day
By Heather McDonald
A task force charged with probing the pros and cons to lengthening the elementary school day reported it is a sound idea and will benefit students and teachers.
The updated report came nearly a year to the day after Stevens Point Area Public School District Board members’ vote to begin the new hours in the 2018-19 school year.
The decision was made during a board meeting April 10, 2017, but because the public and district schools’ staff thought the concept was not vetted properly, the board requested more study be put into answering outstanding questions before the new hours were implemented.
This week, Monday, April 9, administration and members of the task force reported out the findings of their several month study to confirm the move is the best for the district. The item was informational only; the approval already is in place to start this fall.
“Not everyone agrees with what’s been presented,” said Cory Hirsbrunner, director of Elementary Education. “There are still some people who are not in favor, but it’s good to have varying opinions, and it helped provide some rich discussion.”
The issue of lengthening the elementary school day had been discussed about five months prior to approval. The past year, the task force – which was made up of more than 20 community members, parents and staff – worked on why the district should move forward and gaining more data from stakeholders in preparation of the upcoming year.
Kindergarten through sixth grade school day will begin at 8:45 a.m. rather than the current 9:05 a.m. beginning in 2018-19.
The task force conducted surveys of students and staff, garnering information about what students and staff would like more of during the day, whether or not staff observed greater needs with health and behavior due to mental illness, data and research that link the amount of time in school to success, outcomes and accountabilities, and length of time comparisons with surrounding school districts.
While Stevens Point schools meet state requirements for instruction hours, students are in class the least amount of time compared with schools across the county and region. In Portage County, Tomorrow River School District elementary students are in school 40 minutes longer, and parochial schools also are lengthier: Pacelli Catholic elementary schools run 25 minutes longer, St. Paul Lutheran School runs 30 minutes longer and Stevens Point Christian Academy runs 15 minutes longer.
That was a large factor in moving to a longer day, officials have said, but educational issues also top off the need to extend the day.
Survey results show 99 percent of staff feel more demand placed on them to due to increased mental health and behavioral needs; that the social and emotional learning as well as math and reading are priorities; 58 percent of staff indicated there is not enough time in the day to address the educational demands of today’s students.
Student surveys showed the youth would like more time for recess, encore classes, technology and projects.
“As a task force, we spent time really coming up with this idea that it’s really important as a district to empower schools” and provided the needed flexibility to meet the needs of students, Hirsbrunner said.