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Shorter School Day Ahead for K-3 Students in Pleasanton

Pleasanton students in grades kindergarten through three will have a shorter school day due to class size reduction.

K-3 parents: If you're not planning to clean out your kid's backpack until August, consider this fair warning: Inside you're going to find the has snuck an extremely unpleasant end-of-the-year surprise inside.

Tipped off by a very upset parent who sent me a text expressing her outrage, I looked inside my child's bag and found a pink one-sheet letter announcing that due to the elimination of , K-3 classes will have 30 kids. 

(Last we heard, the district was considering , but apparently that plan didn't work out, at least since our last Pleasanton Patch article on the subject.)

So, the June 8 letter states, the district is implementing a staggered schedule to offer small group reading instruction for primary grade students.

What the letter does not say anything about is that this schedule, which was followed by the district 14 years ago, means our K-3 kids will have 45 minutes less instructional time.

If you're in "Group A," you go to school from 8:15 a.m. until 2 p.m. If you're in "Group B," you go to school from 9 a.m. until 2:55 p.m. (Upper grades are not affected.)

Beyond my distress at the shorter school day, this schedule causes major problems for working parents who need to figure out new child care options (which also will cost them more money, of course.) And even for parents who don't work or who work at home, if they have more than one kid, they'll now have little ones coming and going at different times. Ugh.

I'm also frustrated by the lack of communication from the district on this. A letter sent home on the last day of school in a kid's backpack? Really? How many parents aren't even going to KNOW that this is happening??

I've heard there's an effort to raise money to halt some of these budget cuts, but it seems like the district has made its decision.

Have a nice summer.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Sidnee Marie June 11, 2012 at 12:40 AM
Well if you can afford it, I suppose private school is an option. It isn't for me.
Sidnee Marie June 11, 2012 at 12:41 AM
My understanding was that the teachers make concessions for furlough days and whatnot for next year--that is actually a cut in pay.
Candace Cease June 11, 2012 at 03:23 AM
Staggered reading was the standard practice in most California school districts before CSR. Primary students are not required to attend school for the same minutes as upper grade students. In fact, they could have been dismissed 45 minutes earlier each day through the CSR days; however, the district saw the benefit of lengthening their day. Now, 30 children is too many at one time to maintain an effective reading program, so the district is simply going back to the instructional model in place in 1996. This is in no way illegal or to hurt parents, but to help children learn to read in a smaller group setting. it is most definitely a hassle for parents however.
Elizabeth June 11, 2012 at 08:10 AM
The lame district has many alternatives for small group reading, but once again the union contracts and unimaginative administration has thrown the baby out with the bath water. This is probably why they canned the Discovery Program. They've been working on this fiasco for many months now. Half the kids could be pulled out for PE twice a week from multiple classes to got to PE while half remain in the classroom for reading. Half the kids could be pulled out for Science Lab from a couple of classes so that a combined Science lab goes on while smaller reading group remain in the classroom. The list goes on. They could have parent volunteers or volunteers from local companies for FREE work with the kids in small groups in reading. But no. Instead they go back to a supposed model used over 20 years ago??? Very lame. No wonder there are Charter schools.
Sidnee Marie June 11, 2012 at 11:20 AM
Elizabeth--I'm unclear why you are blaming the unions for this? The teachers already made concessions for next year--furlough days--which is less pay. I'm not saying I agree with the district on what they are doing--particularly when the teachers and parents had no idea it was going on. However, to say that the union contracts are to blame--is weak. And research shows that volunteers don't make the difference in helping students learn to read--it is TEACHERS. THey are the trained professionals in the classroom. Volunteers are great--BUT they are not trained to give proper instruction in reading. I mean, if volunteers were the answer--why pay anyone to educate our children? Just let volunteers do it.
PleasantMama June 11, 2012 at 04:21 PM
I'm confused. The article says K-3, but it doesn't seem kindergarten is affected?? Can someone clarify for me? The K school day is already short. Don't see how they could cut it more.
Elizabeth June 11, 2012 at 05:40 PM
The union contract does not allow teachers to teach when kids are pulled out for P.E. or Science, thus pulling out half the kids during this time while the other remain in class for reading is not allowed by the union contract. The union specifically prohibits teaching during that time and guarantees a 'preparation' period for planning during that time. That is why P.E. and Science teachers are called Prep Specialists, because they primarily serve a function to keep the kids while the teacher has 'prep' periods alone.
Wendy Smith June 11, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Kindergarten will be going from 25 students to 30 students. The issue is about doing away with classroom reduction so the staggered schedule really only applies to grades 1-3. However, I helped out in my son's Kindergarten class this last year and they were busting at the seams with 25 kids. Five more students will definitely impact the class.
Clare Gomes June 11, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Are we sure about this? That is not at all how I interperted the note. I took it to mean all kids would be at school 8:15 - 2:55 but the class would have 2 sets of reading groups.
Alice C. June 11, 2012 at 08:07 PM
How do we help this situation? Can we get the Parcel Tax back on the ballot? Why is Pleasanton (known for it's excellent schools) struggling with this while our neighbors in Dublin, San Ramon and Livermore are keeping their class sizes around 25? We need to empower ourselves and the school district to fix this.
Elizabeth June 11, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Group A students will arrive at 8:15. Group B students will arrive 45 minutes later during the morning at 9:00. Group A students will leave at 2:10. Group B students will leave 45 minutes later at 2:55. Go to the Board meeting June 19 and tell them to not do this plan by showing up at the beginning of the meeting. This was never even discussed a Board meeting. The parents were blindsided as usual.
Kari Hulac (Editor) June 11, 2012 at 08:43 PM
yes, Sidnee, we called the district on Friday and they verified it is correct. Only parents of k-3 kids got the letter, because it only affects these grades, so that might be why some parents didn't get the letter.
Kari Hulac (Editor) June 11, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Good question...note does not say. Perhaps kinders will have same length of school day but will have two different start times?
Michael Austin June 11, 2012 at 09:05 PM
If you attend the next board meeting and wish to speak. You will have to fill out a speakers card when you arrive. This will enable you to be called up to speak. With out the card filled out you will not be able to speak.
Eric June 11, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Sidney I just saw your response to me. When my child left school she brought home her report card. When we got home the letter was in with the report card. As you can see now, I was not "flying off the handle" I was responding to having the rug pulled out from under us in a chickenpoop fashion the same way the school informed us the Discovery Program was ending, through our kids and a letter sent home to us. My child knew about this before I did!
PleasantMama June 11, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Another reason it's important to be actively involved in your child's education. Teachers already have so much to cover in the short amount of time they get, and now this. More and more will fall onto the parent's shoulders as additional cuts are made. Unfortunately, not every student has the type of home life, parents, and financial means to pick up the slack when needed.
PleasantMama June 11, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Kari, yes most of the kindergartens have separate start times already, so I imagine other than class size increasing, there will be no changes.
Sidnee Marie June 11, 2012 at 09:36 PM
At Kari--nope. I have a niece and nephew--one going into 1st and one into 2nd--at two different elementary schools in the district. Plus a few neighbors with 2nd graders. None of them got a letter.
Autumn Johnson (Editor) June 12, 2012 at 12:06 AM
Call and email the district tomorrow!
anon June 12, 2012 at 12:34 AM
These changes were publicized when they were voted on by the board. Pleasanton has had more instructional minutes than required by law for years. They are just cutting back to what other districts doing, and the law requires. We are in a bare bones budget...if you don't want the cuts, vote for the parcel tax...$227/year is far less than what these people will be paying for extra day care, etc. Wake up people...those of you that would rather get your regular mani's and pedi's but not pay a parcel tax now get to pay for someone to shuffle your kids to and fro. Probably at greater expense than the parcel tax. Pleasanton schools are on their way down.
Momof2 June 12, 2012 at 12:59 AM
The thing that gets me is how no one actuallt realizes we (meaning families and governments) over the past (god knows how many) years have spent more than we have. Wake up! There is no more money. I was raised with a few basic rules.......Never spend more than you will have in the bank. Alway pay off you debts, including credit cards, every month. And never ever spend your equity (in you house or business). If only everyone woiuld follow these rules.
Michael Austin June 12, 2012 at 01:02 AM
Anon, please provide the link where these current changes were publicized "when they were voted on by the board."
Elizabeth June 12, 2012 at 02:58 AM
They didn't even announce a June 5th meeting on the Board calendar until they posted a new calendar adding a June 5th date several minutes before the meeting began. Take a look at this link: http://www.pleasanton.k12.ca.us/BoardofTrustees/Downloads/BoardAgendas/ The date is June 5th at 4:14!!! Tuesday, June 05, 2012 4:14 PM 19888 Calendar of Board Meetings 2011-2012 021412rvsd.pdf There is nothing regarding reducing instructional minutes for 1-3 graders listed on its latest agenda here http://www.pleasanton.k12.ca.us/BoardofTrustees/Downloads/BoardAgendas/060512%20Regular%20Board%20Agenda.pdf and in the one before that here http://www.pleasanton.k12.ca.us/BoardofTrustees/Downloads/BoardAgendas/060512%20Regular%20Board%20Agenda.pdf So Anon, where is this mystery link and discussion? Or is this yet another Brown Act violation like the Pleasanton Weekly reports time and time again the PUSD engages in like this article http://www.pleasantonweekly.com/news/show_story.php?id=9130 from the Weekly?
Laura June 12, 2012 at 02:59 AM
Wow you are misinformed! The free Barton program cost $250,000. This is broken down by the following: $80,000 Kristina Clark's salary, $36,000 instructional aide, each school that has the program contributes an additional $6 to $8,000. As for salary cuts the budget has been balanced on the employees backs for the fifth year in a row. The salaries appear higher As medical is purchased by employees. Bottom line Pleasanton residents want it all. They are entitled I suppose. You get what you pay for. This is the only community around that did not support a parcel tax. Even the city of Oakland passed a parcel tax. Despite all the cuts our kids are performing in the top 10% of the nation. I remember when the simple mention of Pleasanton Unified brought forth an awe of respect and envy. Amazing how quickly this community has turned on its schools. A community of Character? Remember, together we triumph or divided we fall. At the end of the day what is YOUR child's future worth?
Elizabeth June 12, 2012 at 04:57 AM
Pleasanton property owners already pay through the nose for Pleasanton schools. From what I've seen in the press, PUSD just wastes money it is given---for instance, administrators hired by the Board President from Lodi to improve Pleasanton schools (Lodi? Really?) rather than it going into the classroom, facility planners, trend data planners, drug sniffing dogs, cell phones, car allowances (Pleasanton is so big, isn't it) and so on. No wonder the governor can't get a budget that will fund schools with all of these extravagant expenses. Heck, with the last parcel tax, the PUSD wouldn't even commit to the wording specifying money go to particular line items like reading specialists or class size reduction. No wonder it wouldn't pass. There were no specifics. Why on earth would anyone support an additional parcel tax with over $100 Million still owed on two Pleasanton Unified bond measures and the purchase of price of each house having an embedded developer fee that is quadruple the State rate? Pleasanton property owners already have 3 PUSD taxes they are paying. And they are drowning in non voter approved debt. Pay off your debt, PUSD.
Bookworm June 12, 2012 at 06:03 AM
I feel frustrated that everyone is so shocked and angered by PUSD's efforts to deliver quality education with a bare bones budget. We are the only district around who cannot seem to pass a parcel tax. Why? because we have too many people in our community who want to blame the state and/or develop conspiracy theories about what the district is doing with the budget. The bottom line is: there is not enough money in the budget to teach our kids properly. You try teaching 30 first graders to read. Sure, it used to work...back in the 80's when there were no state level benchmarks for what students must master. Teaching to a small group of children is truly what's best for young children who are learning to read and comprehend text. I know it's an inconvenience to all parents, but this is life with a slashed budget and little community support. Next time, let's take some pride and responsibility for our schools' success...and vote YES for that parcel tax!!!
Pleasanton Mom June 12, 2012 at 06:59 AM
I can't stand the unions, but feel for these teachers that now have to find a way to pack even more in with 45 less mins a day. I ever you doubt that every single minute is used to its fullest because they are required to cover do much then go sit in a classroom for a day. My daughter graduated already and she had 33 kids in her PUSD 3-5 grade classes. The superintendent is very approachable. If you have a valid well thought out plan and have done your homework, I can't see her turning down a meeting. Cindy Galbo retiring is a big deal. This is a huge loss and huge shoes to fill at such a challenging time. I'm so glad my youngest is in high school and I am sorry for those of you with younger kids. I have a feeling a parcel tax might be reconsidered by voters now that we are feeling the pain. I'd be willing to paying share whereas my position was not the same one year ago.
Elizabeth June 12, 2012 at 07:23 AM
Actually, the PUSD would never in a million years commit to class size reduction in writing for a parcel tax nor commit to any sort of salary freeze because they would never write specifics at all. They want "flexibility" to spend the money on consultants, administrators, raises, loans for houses for superintendents, retreats, seminars, and other bells and whistles. That is why the language is always so vague and one would never pass, particularly, when the community has felt retaliated against or manipulated by stunts like these. Wonder who dreamed up the end of school year 'letter in backpack,' Ahmadi or Larson?
Emily June 13, 2012 at 04:47 AM
We may be the 'only district around' who won't pass a parcel tax but when you look at the high level of parent involvement, fundraising and PPIE contributions, one could safely say that many residents are feeling fatigued from being nickeled and dimed at every turn. I'm not saying I wouldn't support a parcel tax, however I would feel much more inclined to vote YES on such a tax if I felt confident the district was making the best financial decisions possible. I just don't know. These 11th hour major announcements slipped into report card envelopes aren't leaving me feeling very confident in the leadership. Hopefully I'm proven wrong. Truly.
Elizabeth June 13, 2012 at 07:33 AM
With this http://www.pleasantonweekly.com/news/show_story.php?id=9415, according to this, there is no leadership and no accountability. We elect a Board to run the school district, but it seems that Chris Grant just wants to abdicate all responsibility in allocating resources to reading. He seems to not have any leadership ability, and not only that, believes he should NOT make decisions. Also, he believes it is not his role to ensure that the community and stakeholders who elected HIM to be in charge have any participation in the process, per this latest 11th hour announcement. I guess that he just leaves all that stuff to deskbound bureaucrats and internal staff. The quote below summarizes his point of view perfectly. ' "A separate motion made by Arkin and seconded by Hintzke to add one extra reading specialist specifically for Barton failed on a vote of 2 to 3. Board Member Chris Grant said the experts, not the school board, should decide how to allocate money for reading. Grant said principals, reading specialists and teachers should "come together and say, 'With a limited amount of resources ... how can we have the biggest impact on kids and help them advance?'" ' The Board of Education is responsible for allocating resources to education. Chris Grant evidently thinks that is not part of his job description. I guess he feels his job is to just sit there and nod in obedience and hand out certificates.

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