Wacky Wednesdays are about to become a thing of the past for families in the Puyallup School District. They’ll be replaced by somewhat manic Mondays — all in an effort to increase student instructional time and bring consistency to school schedules.
For more than five years, Puyallup elementary schools have had early dismissal on Wednesdays, with kids arriving 10 minutes early and school ending around midday. Meanwhile, junior and senior high students have started each Wednesday 1 hour, 45 minutes late.
Kelly Baker has three children — two daughters at Glacier View Junior High and a son at Hunt Elementary.
“Wednesdays, it’s not easy to remember who goes when,” said Baker, a Realtor with Keller Williams Realty. Even with the flexibility her job allows, she said, “Wednesday mornings are really hard.”
Puyallup schools started the altered schedule to allow teachers time during the school week to work and learn together, schedule parent meetings and more.
At least two other area school districts — Peninsula and Sumner — also have unusual class schedules on Wednesdays for similar reasons, and they have no plans to discontinue them. They say the collaborative time for teachers is important.
“Our work is changing, standards are changing, and expectations for students are increasing,” said Sumner school spokeswoman Ann Cook.
The Puyallup district announced just before winter break that its midweek aberration is scheduled to end next fall. Instead, starting in the 2013-14 school year, all Puyallup schools — elementary, junior high and senior high — will start one hour late each Monday.
Puyallup is Pierce County’s second-largest school district, with nearly 20,400 students.
The district is also considering a calendar that would include nine or 10 half-days, along with two waiver days, in the 2013-14 school year. Waiver days, which must be approved by the state Board of Education, are days when teachers report for work but students are not in school.
The Puyallup School Board is scheduled to consider adopting the calendar for the 2013-14 school year when it meets next Monday.
Even with the addition of half-days and waiver days, the new schedule will increase classroom hours, said district spokesman Brian Fox. In elementary schools, for example, instructional time will increase from 1,010 to nearly 1,029 hours a year, he said. The state requires a minimum of 1,000 hours a year.
But Fox acknowledges that “most parents don’t think in terms of (school) hours, but in terms of days.”
The Wednesday schedule switch will be a welcome relief, several parents say.
“For our family, it was a struggle every Wednesday,” said Kristine Phillips, mom of a second-grader and a fourth-grader at Mountain View Elementary School.
She said getting her kids out of the house 10 minutes early one day a week was a challenge.
“I drove them. They could never catch the bus on Wednesday,” she said.
While free Wednesday afternoons did give the busy mom time for children’s doctor’s appointments and allowed her daughter time for Girl Scout meetings, Phillips said she thinks the new schedule will suit her family better.
Rhiannon Buhre, with a son at Firgrove Elementary and a toddler and new baby at home, said the Wednesday schedule has been a juggling act at her house as well.
When she forgets about the 10-minute early start on Wednesdays, her son misses the bus. When her neighbors forget about early dismissal, younger kids might wind up at her house because their older siblings aren’t home to let them in.
“The solution they came up with (Monday late starts) still gives teachers a little time once a week,” Buhre said.
Fox said one reason the district is announcing the change now but waiting until fall to implement it is to allow an adjustment period for child care providers and youth organizations that offer Wednesday afternoon programs.
Fox said Puyallup initially adopted the Wednesday schedule years ago with the advent of state-mandated changes.
“The primary reason was to give us more time with teachers,” he said.
Puyallup isn’t alone in offering altered school days.
The Gig Harbor-based Peninsula School District has one-hour late starts on Wednesday mornings. Superintendent Chuck Cuzzetto said the purpose is to allow staff members to collaborate for school improvement. He said each Peninsula school posts its collaboration efforts monthly, and the district checks in on those efforts three times a year.
He said state budget cuts in recent years have taken a bite out of teacher time.
“We have lost our three Learning Improvement Days and, with the salary cuts, lost an additional professional development day as a furlough day,” Cuzzetto said.
The Sumner School District is in its fourth year of late-start Wednesdays.
While the initial move was a way to deal with state funding cuts that paid for teacher-only work days, the district has found the time to be a valuable asset.
Sumner chose Wednesday late starts with the help of community input. Parents told the district they realized that while early dismissal on Fridays might be ideal for families wanting an early start to the weekend, it wasn’t likely to be as productive for teachers.
John Hellwich, Sumner’s director of teaching and learning, said what has made the time effective for teachers was having clear goals and structure.
“It is not individual planning time,” he said. It’s a time for teams of teachers to come together and exchange ideas for improving their work with firstname.lastname@example.org