Schools ready for new start times

Written by Administrator
 | Tuesday, 25 August 2009 21:16

On Sept. 2, Duxbury public school students will return to the classroom. Many of those students, however, will be waking up at an earlier or later hour –– the result of a controversial decision to swap the Alden and high school/middle school start times.

School Superintendent Susan Skeiber says that the district has been busy over the summer, preparing a host of after school activities for the Alden students. Alden student will now be getting out of school an hour earlier than their brothers and sisters in the upper grades, which some parents have said will create child care difficulties.

“There are a number of different opportunities for students, from debate clubs to art activities. For students who need that kind of activities, it will be there,” said Skieber, who added that Alden Assistant Principal Karen Fruzzetti has been working to start more after school programs at Alden even before the start time controversy. The schools have been working with groups like the Duxbury Art Association, the Duxbury Student Union, and Duxbury Before and After Dark.

“This is opening up that whole piece for all of our kids,” she said, adding that she wants the programs to be perceived as more than just “an hour of childcare.”

When the start time was finalized by a vote of the school committee in February, parents complained that the move was made without enough community input.

The district has formed a sleep needs study committee, which Skeiber said will be monitoring the progress of the initiative throughout the year, as well as listening to feedback from parents.

“As we go through, we’ll ask, ‘how is it working?’” she said.

The committee has put together a communication plan, Skieber said, and this fall they’ll they’ll start to get analysis of the student and parent surveys they did last spring.

“We anticipate as we do with any program, there will be some glitches,” she said.

There is also a plan to conduct more surveys in the fall and spring, determining the change’s impact on high school and middle school kids, as well as Alden families. She cautioned that any results of the change may not be evident right away.

“It wouldn’t be wise to say that you’ve got any kind of results in that first year,” she said.

Although it may have received the most attention, the new start time won’t be the only change in the school district next year.

There will be 25 new teachers, which Skeiber said is about average in terms of instructor turnover, although it is a little less than last year. There are two new administrators, new Special Education Director Bruce Cole and a new curriculum coordinator.

Relating to special education, the district will start a new co-teaching program, where regular and special education instructors will teach together in the same classrooms.

“I think it is a strategy that will benefit all the kids in the class room,” said Skeiber. “It ensures that the curriculum is available to all our kids, including those in IEPs [Individualized Education Plans].”

There are also two new additions to the school campus. The new field turf behind the high school will provide a better playing surface for the high school sports teams, but district officials are hoping the benefits will extend beyond football and lacrosse seasons. Skeiber said she and Athletic Director Thom Holdgate are working with organizations interested in renting out the field, which would produce some additional revenue for the district.

“I would foresee that there will be groups that want to use it,” she said.

The turf field has been installed, and the final pieces of the complex, the track and the lights, are being worked on.

“That’s in pretty good shape and should be ready for use shortly,” Skeiber said.

The school and Sustainable Duxbury have partnered to install solar panels at the Chandler School (which also received a new roof this summer). Although the energy generated by the panels won’t make much of a dent in the school’s utility bills, Skieber said the educational component will be invaluable.

“Our kids are going to be able to see how that kind of green technology actually works,” she said.

Overall, Skieber said she wants to see the school district continue to move forward.

“Education for too long has been characterized as what’s the latest and greatest, and let’s jump on the bandwagon,” she said. “We want to stay on a course that’s going to result in a great curriculum.”