PTA report

My blogging time tonight got consumed by putting together the PTA newsletter. 

I'm not sure whether anyone reads the newsletter, as most of the content is repeated by single-topic flyers included in the take-home folders.  But it's a chance to provide a bit more advance notice of events and to thank the volunteers who make everything happen.

I picked this job to volunteer for because it's easy to do on my own schedule.  But I don't feel like it's allowed me to get to know as many people as I'd like, since I get all the info for it by email.  Volunteering at the election day bakesale was much better for that.

The hot topic right now is the school schedules.  For years, a group of parents have been campaigning to rejigger the schedule so that the high school students don't have to get up so early.  There's a bunch of research that says that teens really are biologically wired to stay up late.  But, the same buses do multiple routes a day, so if the high schools start later, most of the elementary schools will start earlier.

I don't really personally mind if the school starts at 7.50 (as would happen under the proposed plan).  The school is right on my way to work, so I'd probably drop the boys off in the morning on my way out, rather than having them waiting for the bus at the crack of dawn.  Before we moved, D's school started at 8 am. 

But the principal is really concerned about it.  The worries that she expressed are:

  • older kids not being home in the afternoon to watch younger kids
  • teachers who live a long way out not being able to make it in on time and so transferring to other schools
  • overall, need to provide coverage for a longer day (since it will start earlier but aftercare will have to run just as late).

I don't really know how this will play out.

In somewhat-related political news, Arne Duncan says he's going to send his daughter to public school, but in Arlington, not DC.

14 Responses to “PTA report”

  1. sinda Says:

    I’ve read about the adolescents needing more sleep, and it makes sense to shift their schedules, but I’d never thought about all of those ramifications.
    I don’t know what time my public elementary school starts, but I know the bus for those little guys goes by at 6:15, when it’s pitch dark and I haven’t even had my coffee yet. My kids’ school starts at 8:15, and I can drop them off as early as 7:30, which gives us a lovely wide window with which to work!

  2. Jody Says:

    I think you know already that we start at 7:50? The elementary kids are dismissed at 2:30pm. The middle school starts at 8:15 or 8:20, while the high school starts at 8:45.
    We’ve adjusted to the whole thing, and I like having more time with the kids in the afternoon, but when we have a 2-hour late start (once monthly for teacher development), I always think that 9am is such a nice civilized time to catch a bus.
    In a world with lots of working parents, it makes more sense to me to start earlier and provide longer after-school care. Not having had the experience yet, I would think that having both “before school” care and “after school” care would be a lot of activities transitions for a school-age kid to handle. And there must be before-school childcare when schools start after 8am, right?
    Then again, it doesn’t seem to bother anyone for all the long months of summer camp. So what do I know?
    I think the transition from one regime to another is the tough part. Luckily it happened here years before it affected us.

  3. Laura/Geekymom Says:

    When I was a kid, all the schools started at the same ungodly time. I assume we had more buses to accommodate getting everyone to school on time.
    I’d advocate for something close to a 9-5 schedule across the board, which would likely eliminate problem #1, and may even eliminate the need for aftercare. And that #2 problem strikes me as odd, given that high school teachers come in early and no one’s transferring.
    My son’s in junior high, which starts at 7:50 and let me just say that he has a really hard time getting up. I suspect he’s not fully alert until about 10. When we had a 2-hour delay the other day, he was out of bed by 8 without any problem. So, I think it would definitely help.

  4. jen Says:

    This is an aside, but it bothers me that Duncan had his kids at the hearing as if they’re Exhibit A. The piece included rosy accounts of his kids sitting behind him coloring, and that the behavior of his children was overtly commented upon. This is not appropriate. His kids should be shielded from this whole process. They are not his work product.

  5. Lee Says:

    Our elementary starts at 7:50 and it never occurred to me that there might be a later option. I went to two different high schools- one which started at 8:50 and the other which started at 7:15.
    Does anyone have data on whether high school kids actually watch younger kids after school, and the differences depending on the demographic of the neighborhood?
    Aftercare would need to run longer, but aftercare tends to be a fairly inexpensive option compared with other childcare options.
    Something I’d consider is, who would you rather have the extra hour after school? High schoolers or elementary?

  6. Sarah Says:

    When we were in the city, my daughter’s elementary school started at 7:45. She needs a slow morning, so she was up at 6. It was a weird switch when we moved to the suburbs where the busing schedule is different – I thought they didn’t do the double run, but I think someone told me I was wrong. Either way, the distances are much shorter. Our suburban elem. school starts at 8:55. That hour is crazy!
    It has take almost a year to reset her internal clock to not wake up at 6. And we lost all of our after school activities. Her city school let out at 2:45. She could fit in swimming or art or gym before our family dinner time (all a luxury, I know, of me being a SAHM to chauffeur her to all of that.) Her first semester in the ‘burbs, I signed up for her favorite art class. I had to cancel. Even if it hadn’t been a 1/2 hour further away, we’d never make a 4pm class. Her school uses their full day – classes end at 3:35 and she rarely gets out of the building before 3:45 (in contrast, at her old school, if the day ended at 2:25, I’d have to wait there by 2:15, or she’d be the last one on the playground with the teacher).
    Of course, if the later start high school gets their way, and that is not a bad idea for their brains and all that, the after school problem shifts to high schoolers. And I just pulled my 1st grader out of art, but I doubt the the football team is going to say it’s too late to practice at 5pm. Even if it is dark.

  7. K Says:

    Interesting. I’m a product of the Fairfax County Public Schools but I never minded high school starting so early. Here in Wisconsin, elementary schools start at either 7:45 or 8:30. They split them in half to share buses. The high school starts at 8, I believe. High schoolers have to take a city bus, they don’t do school buses for the high school.

  8. urbanartiste Says:

    I am not sure I agree with making the high school start later. In NYC there are a number of high schools that are on a early and late shift schedule due to overcrowding and many students don’t have a choice in starting school at 7 am. I can see this argument applied to middle school, but when a senior in high school goes to college, the college is not going to care about his/her need to go to class at 9 or 10 am. Yes, a student is in control of his/her schedule, but odds are they will take at least one class early in the morning.
    On a personal note, my high school started at 8:40, but AP courses were offered at 7:50 am. I took a drivers ed class on Saturday at 7:00 am and weekend classes offered to h.s. students at colleges in NYC that started at 8 am. I dealt with it and it disciplined me to get up early for college and maintain a full-time job. I will admit, that although my classes started at 8:40, I was up at 6 am getting ready for school – the vanity and stress of the teen years (hair, make-up, clothing, etc.). In general I have always been in the mindset to get up early so I can have the rest of the day for myself.

  9. urbanartiste Says:

    I may come across a little bitter and wanted to let you know where I am coming from. I am teaching a college course this semester that starts at 9 am and I am constantly looking back at faces that are not in the mood to be in class at 9 am. The class is mixed with freshman and as a professor I could care less if they are tired.

  10. Jennifer Says:

    Our primary (elementary) school starts at 9.15, finishing at 3.15. So we do have both before and after school care, although I think the after school care is more patronized – many parents just take turns going to work late, as you can drop off from 8.45.
    But there are also heaps of before and after school activities – band, french, spanish, robotics, science, which extend the school day without being the official child care option, which help. For our kids, an early start is definitely better, as they wake at 6, so we seek out the before school activities if possible, as they are at their best at that time of day. I assume that’ll change when they are teenagers, of course.

  11. amy Says:

    I dream of homeschooling just so I can wake up at a civilized hour. I’d had my child all trained to a nice bohemian schedule, and then look what happens. I haven’t had this kind of schedule since my teens, and it was so obviously wrong then that as soon as I got to college, I ditched it. Had a few shortlived salaried jobs where they expected you to wake up with the roosters, but dumped those and have been happy ever after. Till now, anyway.
    urbanartiste, my first semester in college I had a huge lecture that started at 8. By October I’d figured out that if I was going to fall asleep, I could do it just as well in my bed. So I stopped going to classes. (Did fine; after a C on the midterm learned lots with the book & VAX software, top score on final, they tried to recruit me as major.) Learned my lesson and after that looked to start my mornings at 11 am. I still train employers not to expect me before then. The public school is resistant, though. Bureaucrats. Again, homeschooling. (Well, they’re also doing a crummy job with the Rs, and the teacher spills her whole personal life to 5-year-olds.)

  12. urbanartiste Says:

    Amy, I try to not teach before 8 am, but have given up more money to do so. Eventually I will have no choice in accepting early teaching assignments. Right now my child has been an acceptable excuse to employers. When I worked in book publishing the hours were different for winter and summer (the slow time). My bosses set the hours and in the summer we had to be there earlier than 9 am; we were allowed to leave early on Fridays. Sometimes we don’t get to choose and other times there is a trade-off.
    I am curious to see if and how employers change due to Gen-Y wanting flex hours. But if one wants to be a doctor, he/she can’t tell a patient don’t get sick at 3 a.m.

  13. jen Says:

    Well, I can tell you that I work in an office filled with Gen Yers. And there is serious tension over their unwillingness to be in when the work day starts. (Here that means 8:30.) I can tell you there are people who are getting dinged on their annual reviews because they simply can’t get in on time. It’s clearly not everyone of that age group. Plenty of them get in on time. But a healthy percentage do not, and then (if you can believe this) they also push back when they’re reprimanded. It would be different if these same kids were getting in late but absolutely cranking and staying late, putting in their hours at other times, etc. But there is a strong correlation between just flat-out laziness and inability to get in on time. It is definitely noted and remembered by the supervisory ranks.
    For the record I am in favor of adjusting school schedules to what works for various age cohorts. And I suppose if one can arrange college to allow for sleeping in that’s fine too. But that sort of behavior needs to stop cold when entering the workplace, where other people depend upon you to be available and where standard core hours are typically kept by all. And I don’t think we do kids any favors when they encounter this sort of responsibility for the very first time in the (notoriously unforgiving) workplace.

  14. bj Says:

    “For the record I am in favor of adjusting school schedules to what works for various age cohorts. ”
    Me too, if it were really evidence based. But, it seems that pseudo-scientific trends appear. Is it really a special physiological need for teenagers to sleep late? Or do the teenage years just reflect other changes (like opposition to authority) that influence the ability to do things on time? Are elementary kids not affected by school schedules that require them to get up before the sun rises?

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