At a recent PTO meeting, the Columbia County Board of Education's proposal for a weekly two-hour early release program for elementary schools was discussed. The many questions raised were beneficial and, hopefully, the board will attempt to answer each and every issue before putting this plan into action.
Some especially good points were, "What options, other than lengthening the school day, have been considered? Is this the best format for an early release program? Is there another way to do it?"
I believe most parents understand and empathize with the need for teachers to have more planning and collaboration time; they just would like to see better research and substantiation for how it should be done. A few vital concerns remain:
A parent from our school has done very minimal research into early release programs in Georgia's schools and has raised many questions that the study team should have anticipated and attempted to address. Apparently the schools who have early release programs do not have them weekly, nor do they have the longer school day.
The questions regarding transportation are primary and need to be addressed.
The longer day, especially for the younger children, is of great concern.
Loss of instructional time is still a little disconcerting, given our ongoing struggle to find time (and money) for foreign language and other enrichment programs.
How many students will need it and exactly how will the after-school programs be structured and funded? (An article in the Jan. 22, 2004 Augusta Chronicle recognized the success of South Carolina's after-school programs, but reported that "Cutting such after-school activities is happening across the state and nation because of funding shortages." Where will additional money come from to make this after-school program anything more than a day-care situation?)
Teachers deserve to be well-respected, admired and appreciated. It is also important for parents, taxpayers and administrators to affirm that teachers' time is extremely valuable and to give them opportunities to plan and collaborate. On the other hand, it is the board's responsibility and task to answer all the questions and to implement any such program as efficiently and with as little stress on our children and the family unit as possible.
It is hard to get this type of information out, without misunderstandings and miscommunication, so, if you have not received information or if you have questions, please contact your board and your School Council representatives right away and help inform your neighbors! The dialogue is crucial to the implementation of any early release program that would truly benefit our children.
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