Note: The section below in red was updated on 6/2/10. It previously stated “PE time with specialists is cut below what the state recommends at a time childhood obesity is increasing;”
The Bellingham Education Association will be meeting today with Bellingham School District officials to discuss the impacts of the elementary schedule change.
I really don’t have any new information to share, but I know this is something being discussed around the community, so I thought it would be worthwhile to bring the topic up again.
I just had a quick conversation with Shirley Potter, president of the BEA, about this. From the BEA’s standpoint, there are several issues with schedule change, one of the biggest being the change potentially violates teacher contracts, specifically in the area of planning time. (this has been brought up here on School Days before)
As previously reported, district officials changed the elementary schedule in an effort to save money on transportation. All students, regardless of grade, will be attending school from 9:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. This is a half-hour increase for students in grades K-2 and a half-hour decrease for students in grades 3-5. The times were selected based upon input from a survey done with parents, students and staff this winter (the district received about 2,000 responses).
As I’ve discussed here on School Days, this decision has upset many people, teachers and parents included. Shirley Potter said that district officials “failed to discuss the impacts” of this change with the BEA. Changing the schedule means that PE and music time for students in grades 3-5 is cut, with students only getting 40 minutes per week for PE and about 35 minutes for music. However, PE and music time for students in grades K-2 is increased (they previously didn’t have time with specialists).
There are several issues people have raised: teacher planning time is reduced which violates their contract (specialists provide planning time for classroom teachers); PE time is cut below what’s required by state law at a time childhood obesity is increasing (school district officials have said the remaining PE time to be in compliance will be conducted by the classroom teacher, but there is argument about whether the law requires PE time be with a specialist or not); elementary music is being reduced while the strings program is being cut, which potentially impacts the quality of the music program at the upper school levels.
Potter said in a phone conversation this afternoon that these items will be discussed at today’s meeting. The biggest issue however is the potential violation of teacher contracts by reducing their in-school planning time. Potter did say planning time (half-hour) was being added before school, however the contract calls for time during school.
“People need individual planning time to work on stuff for class,” she said.
The appeal that was filed in Whatcom County Superior Court by Save Our Schools Bellingham over this issue (it’s specifically arguing the PE cuts are against the law) is still going, although there has not been any movement since early May. No hearings have been scheduled. The appeal was filed by parents and is separate from anything going on between the BEA and the Bellingham School District.