Nearly a week’s worth of snow days are coming back to haunt Clark-Pleasant students, who may have some truth behind the complaint that they had the longest day ever.
The 6,200-student school district is the first in Johnson County to tackle the challenge of making up time lost due to bitter temperatures, ice and relentless snow.
Starting Monday, Clark-Pleasant students will spend an extra 40 minutes in class every day for four weeks.
After spring break, the schedule will go back to normal.
Elementary students will be in class until at least 4:20 p.m. until March 21, when the bell sounds to release them for spring break. Students at the intermediate, middle and high schools will get out of class between 3:10 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Parents told school officials and board members this week that they are worried about how well young children can handle a longer day, and they’re skeptical about how much learning will actually happen.
Clark-Pleasant has canceled school six times this winter because of snow or extreme cold; the school district received a waiver from the Indiana Department of Education for two of those days and made up a third day this week.
Here is the modified schedule for Clark-Pleasant’s schools. The new schedule will begin Monday and run until March 21:
Break-O-Day Elementary: 9:10 a.m. to 4:20 p.m.
Clark Elementary: 9:10 a.m. to 4:20 p.m.
Pleasant Crossing Elementary: 9:10 a.m. to 4:20 p.m.
Sawmill Woods Elementary: 9:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Whiteland Elementary: 9:10 a.m. to 4:20 p.m.
Clark-Pleasant Intermediate School: 7:35 a.m. to 3:10 p.m.
Clark-Pleasant Middle School: 7:45 a.m. to 3:25 p.m.
Clark-Pleasant Academy: 7:45 a.m. to 11:05 a.m., and 11:45 a.m. to 3:05 p.m.
Whiteland Community High School: 7:40 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
That left three days to make up; and if school officials didn’t find a way to add class time, Whiteland Community High School graduation would have to be moved or students would have to come back to class in June.
Instead, the school board voted unanimously to approve the modified schedule. Graduation is still scheduled for May 30.
“I’m concerned about (the new schedule), but I don’t know that we have a better alternative,” board member Butch Zike said.
Several parents attended the board meeting, including Cassandra Robinson and Victoria Dildine, who are concerned about whether their children and their classmates can adjust to the changes, which will keep them at school and away from home longer.
Robinson and Dildine have a total of three children attending Pleasant Crossing Elementary, and they’re not sure if their kids can focus on lessons until 4:20 p.m. each day. Usually Robinson’s kids can’t concentrate on school beyond about 3:30 p.m., she said.
Robinson said she is also concerned about her son, who takes time-lapsed medication so that he’s able to stay calm and focus in class.
The medicine usually wears off about 3:30 p.m., and she isn’t sure how well he will be able to behave after that.
The new schedule also means that, because elementary-aged students may not get home until 5 p.m. or later, families will have less time for dinner, homework, sports or bedtime routines, Robinson and Dildine said.
The Indiana Department of Education gave schools a list of options to make up for the unusually large number of canceled days they’ve had this winter. Along with lengthening the school day, schools also could have class on Saturday and allow students to complete lessons online.
Last week, Superintendent Patrick Spray asked parents through social media how they felt about lengthening the school day by 40 minutes. He attended a Greenwood City Council meeting on Tuesday and could not be at the school board meeting, but most of the reaction he and other school officials received about the new schedule was supportive, school board members said.
The decision about how the extra time will be used will be made by principals and teachers. School officials could decide to give students extra time to read or could extend the time teachers and aides work with students who need extra help, board members said.
Board members also believe that adding time to the school day now means students will have a better chance at mastering their teachers’ lessons.
Specifically, teachers will now have more time to review math and language arts lessons that students will be tested on during this spring’s ISTEP exam, board member Beatrice Dunn said.
Board member E. Curtis Harris said students also have a better chance of retaining and learning what’s been taught in the middle of the school year than right before summer vacation.
“I don’t have any reservations that this is the best move for us,” Harris said.