By Emily Bialkowski
Summer hasn’t even begun, but parents might want to begin thinking about next school year, when late-start Wednesdays will take effect.
The Caledonia School Board unanimously agreed to the change during their May 20 meeting.
Students will start their day one half hour later on Wednesdays as opposed to the 8:05 a.m. start that existed this year. The purpose of the change is to allow teachers dedicated time to have peer learning centers (PLCs) where they will collaborate and pursue best practices.
“This is something we’ve been talking about for about six months, and we’ve had lots of deliberations and lots of discussion on the pros and cons. We reached out to other districts that are moving forward with this, as well, to get ideas,” Superintendent Ben Barton said.
He also said research has shown that giving teachers dedicated time for such work has proven beneficial for students, who benefit from a coordinated approach to education.
Finally, state mandates are pushing districts in this direction anyway and forcing schools to come up with time for teachers to participate in a PLC during the work day.
At previous meetings with teacher representation, ideas about hosting the PLC in the evening or at a different time were discussed, but the state is saying it must take place during the work day.
“This early start required cooperation with the teaching staff, and I commend them for that,” board member Kelley McGraw said.
Barton said the next step will be to communicate this change to parents so they can plan accordingly.
Elementary drop off location
Another change parents will likely need to adapt to has to do with elementary drop off and pick up.
“This is an issue that we’ve been struggling with. There’s been lots of discussions in previous years, and we just wanted to make something happen to increase safety for students and their families,” Barton said.
Currently parents in vehicles can drop children off by the entrance on West Main Street or West Grove Street. The asphalt between the school building and playground is off limits to children in the morning because buses currently drive through the area to drop off students.
The situation is congested and often described as frightening for parents, who worry a small child will pop out and get struck.
“We came up with options, many of which were going to be very expensive, but the option I’m bringing forward to the board has no cost. Instead, a joint agreement needs to be made with city to make West Grove Street a one-way during peak hours of drop off and pick up,” Barton said.
School buses will drop children off on West Main Street, and parents will no longer be allowed to pull into the small parking lot off West Main.
Children will have the benefit of the entire playground before the school starts, as opposed to the current situation that forces them to stand in line while bus traffic passes.
“I think it’s a good option, and the city and Caledonia Police Department have been very supportive so far,” Barton said, adding that it puts buses and parents on opposite ends of the school.
Questions about students with disabilities and how the proposal might affect neighbors were brought forth, and Barton said he’d remain sensitive to those issues by getting more information.
“I don’t work with that situation every day, so I don’t have a good answer for you right now, but I can talk to the right people,” he said.
The proposal met no objection and will require support from the city.