Principal Cynthia Bodkin has started an important conversation at North Elementary School. When parents and faculty start talking about scheduling changes, they are starting to think about finding new ways to organize the school day more effectively. It’s always easier to keep on with the same old routine, but meaningful change can lead to better teaching and learning.
Instructional time is the most valuable thing that schools have to offer, and it should be used as effectively as possible. In American schools, bus schedules and lunchroom space often have more to do with scheduling decisions than what is best for learning.
We know that teenagers do not fall asleep as early as their little brothers and sisters, and they generally do not learn as well in the early morning, but most American school systems require secondary students to ride an earlier bus than their elementary school counterparts. Scheduling choices also affect juvenile crime rates, too. Most juvenile offenses occur between 3 and 6 p.m., after school and before parents return home.
Now that the West Virginia Legislature has left more scheduling decisions up to the county school boards, more questions should be discussed locally. In Randolph and Tucker counties, where the winters are cold and students miss so many days, we might do well to return to the bus schedules that existed in the 1950s when most students did not start school until 9 a.m., nor go home before 4 p.m. That would be like having a two-hour delay every day.
Perhaps the best way to implement this schedule would be to plan on the later start times for December through March and allow time in the afternoon to practice sports in the spring and fall.
The biggest scheduling change we could see would be to offer year-round schools. Educational research shows that it works best for student learning, and it is convenient for working parents. We all need to be open to new ideas that could make schools more effective.