Elementary school ponders changes to class schedules | AspenTimes.com

Elementary school ponders changes to class schedules

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Aspen Elementary School administrators are seeking input on a proposal that would give teachers extra time for staff development – and give their students some extra time off from class.

The school’s monthly “parent breakfast” meeting, set for 8:15 a.m. Thursday in the AES library, will be used to discuss a new program that would release students either one day per month or one afternoon per week. The extra time, AES Principal Barb Pitchford said, will give the school’s staff time for professional development programs that teachers have a hard time squeezing into their schedules.

“With all the new curriculum coming down and new standards coming down, we have to have more planning time,” Pitchford said of the proposed changes.

Pitchford, as well as Aspen School District administrators, spent four years looking into the new scheduling option before taking it to parents for consideration. Fitting planning sessions between classes – meaning meetings on weekends, late evenings and summer vacations – doesn’t offer enough planning time for elementary school teachers, Pitchford said.

“We’ve done an awful lot of research. This has been a four-year process,” she said. “We’ve read all the national research, and so we’re just presenting the research on ways to do this and try to design it so it works for this community.

“The research is really, really clear that the number one factor in improving student achievement is staff development.”

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Parents received a newsletter from the school last week outlining the proposed scheduling changes. Pitchford said one of the main concerns voiced by parents so far has been that of adequate after-school child care. Working parents have questioned how much the plan would cost them in day-care and babysitting fees.

“Parents have a concern about child care, and I understand that,” Pitchford said. “I’m a working parent also, so we’ve tried a variety of ways to do it without impacting the amount of time students spend here.”

Cutting off classes early on specified days won’t affect AES students’ curriculum, either, Pitchford said. The school is considering the addition of after-school activities, ranging from extra art classes to science clubs to just plain keeping kids busy while their teachers attend meetings, Pitchford said.

“If we do this – and it is an if – we’re trying to find creative and valuable ways for kids to spend their afternoons,” she said.

If the plan is approved, it also won’t affect the length of the school’s academic year, Pitchford said. AES already extends classes three weeks beyond the state’s required minimum in order to operate on the middle school and high school calendars.

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