The elementary school councils of Columbia County have agreed to continue with research of a plan that would release pupils two hours early one day a week, school Superintendent Tommy Price said at a school board meeting Tuesday.
"All 15 school councils voted unanimously to continue the study," Price said. "However, there are concerns."
Among the concerns listed by the councils, which are groups of educators, parents and business partners that offer opinions on school policies, is the addition of 15 minutes to the end of the school day to compensate for a loss of instruction time, Price said.
"That hit a nerve," he told the board. "They said we don't need to do that."
First presented to the school board in November, the early-release plan would dismiss elementary school pupils two hours early one day a week. Proponents of the plan say teachers need the extra time to develop more engaging lesson plans.
Lost instructional time also could be recovered by eliminating recess and noncore curriculum classes, such as art and music, on the early-release days, officials said.
During the two-hour interval between school dismissal and bus schedules, pupils can participate in after-school programs and do homework, officials said.
A contingent of parents at the meeting, led by an Evans lawyer, called the research for the plan faulty and said most parents are not in favor of the plan.
"The overwhelming majority opinion of the parents has been against the proposal," Todd Boudreaux said.
The lawyer said that of the 15 schools used by a task force in researching the early-release plan, only two actually implemented it.
"This study has shown there isn't any measurable benefit," he said.
Price agreed there are problems with the proposal but said refinements would be made before parents are surveyed in March. A final recommendation on the plan will be made to the school board in June, according to a calendar given to members of the school board.
Board member Mike Sleeper, who has attended four school council meetings at which the early-release plan was discussed, said he hopes that parents will fully research the idea before dismissing it.
"I'm telling parents to be patient until the plan is more refined and then judge it on its merits," Sleeper said.
Also at the meeting:
• A discussion on state legislation to create an at-large elected school board chairman was postponed because a copy of the bill was unattainable by meeting time, Price said. The bill, which would redraw the school board district lines to mirror Columbia County Commission, is tied up in the Legislature's legal department, Price said.
• Columbia County resident Dennis McClendon pleaded with school board members to consider naming a new elementary school on Mullikin Road Oakey Grove Elementary School.
McClendon pointed to Stevens Creek and Lewiston elementary schools as examples of new schools given names with historical references.
"If we reach back into our history, I think you will agree Oakey Grove is the proper name for that school," McClendon said.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.