Deer Creek School District officials are working on plans that would allow teachers to work together in teams once a week, about one hour a day, potentially resulting in classes beginning an hour later.
The program, tentatively called “The Late Start Program,” would start in the fall. Deer Creek Superintendent Sean McDaniel said planning is far from over for the district of about 4,300 students.
“There may be a sense a decision has been made, and truly it hasn't,” McDaniel said. “We want parents to have a voice in the decision-making.”
McDaniel said there will also be time for the school board to consider parents' input, and the program likely won't be voted on until mid-April or May.
Surveys were emailed to parents in the district on Friday with questions ranging from what sort of hiccups the late start could cause in terms of transportation and child care to whether it would be better to have school end an hour earlier as opposed to starting later.
Jennifer Green, a mother of three who lives in the district, has two children attending Grove Valley Elementary School. Green said she supports the idea of more structured group-planning time for teachers.
“I'm a stay-at-home mom, so it doesn't matter to me if school starts later, but I think it might be a real issue for working families,” she said.
The concept is based on research and programs called Professional Learning Communities. Researchers describe this as an ongoing process where teachers can work collaboratively to better their teaching skills.
McDaniel said this isn't time for teachers to check their email or grade papers. It has high accountability and is structured. Faculty meets as groups, reflecting and working together in a way that betters learning for students.
“This is a research-based, proven way to accelerate learning,” he said. “It's for kids; it's not just about planning time for teachers.”
Kiley Harbeson, also a mother of three in the district, said she'd have to figure out child care options because she works three days a week.
“I really like the idea,” Harbeson said. “I just want it to be easy for families.”
McDaniel said the concept is one that teachers and administrators largely favor, and it won't cut into student's learning time.
“Even if we start an hour late, our students would still be in excess of the minimum contact time the state requires,” he said. “People all over the country and state are catching on to this.”
Efforts will include the collection of student data that would guide decision-making, periodic progress reports and evaluations of the program.