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Instructional hours to change for Chambersburg students

February 15, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Elementary school students will get a later start on their day beginning in the 2009-10 school year, while secondary students' schedules will remain largely unchanged after the Chambersburg School Board voted this week to change the start and end times for the school day.

The vote at Wednesday's meeting was unanimous to have the elementary school day run from 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. The current school day runs from about 8:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.

There will be less of a shift for middle, junior and high school students. The school day currently runs from 8 a.m. to about 3 p.m., but under the new schedule, it would be 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.

Among the reasons for the change in schedules is increasing the number of instructional hours in the year, currently at the state minimum of 900 hours. Administration officials have said the change will add about 30 minutes of class time per day.

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Chambersburg's school schedule has the elementary school day sandwiched between the start and dismissal times of its secondary schools.

"I'm not convinced we need an hour between the secondary and elementary" schedules, board member Fred Rice said. Board member Stanley Helman suggested the time between bus runs could be trimmed between now and when new bus routes are announced in early 2009.

"There's no school district that has less than an hour turnaround time," board Vice President Renee Sharpe said. An examination of 13 school districts in the region shows "at least 10 of them operate in the way our district is proposing," she said.

Sharpe said she originally favored a proposal to have secondary students start their day later than the elementary students, but since has changed her mind.

Last month, members of the district's Parents Advisory Council appeared to favor the proposed change, but were voicing second thoughts in a meeting earlier this week.

Member Susan Berrier said the group is concerned about the amount of unsupervised time at home some elementary students might have if school starts later. Some parents would have to find baby sitters to take their children to school before work, she said.

A limited latch key program might have to be expanded to all elementary schools, so parents can drop students off or pick them up after school, Superintendent Joseph Padasak said.

The program is not free, however, Board President Thomas Orndorf said.

"There is no easy, perfect solution," board member Lori Leedy said. No proposed schedule change will address all parents' concerns, she said.

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