Wichita district leaders may consider changing the start and end times of the school day in an effort to dismiss elementary school students earlier next year, officials said.
According to an announcement posted on the district’s website Tuesday, feedback from an online survey about the school calendar showed that a majority of elementary school teachers and families don’t like this year’s schedule, which ends at 4:40 p.m. for most elementary students.
The Wichita school board plans to discuss the issue at its meeting Monday.
The Wichita district, as part of a $3 million budget cut last year, added 30 minutes to each school day and trimmed 15 days from the academic calendar.
Some said the transition has been more challenging than expected, particularly for young children and their families. More than 14,000 people responded to the district’s survey, officials said.
Slightly more than half of all respondents – 54 percent – said they favored keeping the school calendar as-is next year.
But a majority of elementary school employees and parents expressed concern about the longer school day, and many suggested modifying start times to end school earlier, the news release said.
Of the survey respondents, 63 percent of employees, 54 percent of parents and 47 percent of students said the longer day has not had a positive impact. Only 46 percent of elementary teachers favored keeping this year’s school calendar.
Three-fourths of students responding to the survey agreed with the statement that “staying awake at the end of the day is a concern,” according to an executive summary of survey results e-mailed to district employees. Seventy-two percent of parents and 62 percent of employees said staying awake is a concern.
Asked about benefits of the revised calendar, survey respondents said the $3 million in budget savings, extended breaks at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and an additional recess period for elementary students were the primary advantages.
“It’s unfortunate that finance and budget is driving this train,” said Superintendent John Allison in the news release.
“Our district has made cuts to our operating budget year after year, and we are uncertain what the result of the current legislative session will be in light of the Kansas Supreme Court ruling earlier this school year,” he said.
“We will be thoughtful and deliberate in our considerations based on feedback, then we will make what is sure to be a difficult recommendation that allows our district to move forward with preparations for the 2017-18 school year.”
In Wichita, the state’s largest school district, most middle and high schools start at 8 a.m. and most elementary schools at 9 a.m. A handful of magnets and special-program schools start earlier, at 7 a.m.
It’s unclear how officials plan to tweak school schedules, but starting elementary schools earlier could affect other schools as well. That’s because the district staggers start times so one bus can serve up to three schools.
Last spring, the Wichita district considered moving up start times at several K-8 schools – starting classes at 7 a.m. – to cut its transportation budget. That prompted push-back from some families and the leaders of Start School Later, a Maryland-based advocacy group that called the proposal “unconscionable.”
District officials have delayed approval of next year’s calendar while they decide whether or how to change start and stop times.
“The district will look at potential scenarios and make a decision as soon as possible,” officials said in the news release.