Staff from the will review questions posed by attendees of Tuesday evening’s informational meeting about the upcoming staggered-day schedule for grades 1-3.
The new schedule, beginning this August, was approved by the district June 5 in response to state budget cuts that forced the district to increase class sizes to an average of 30 students.
Parents and teachers were informed by a notice sent home with children on the last day of school.
Tuesday’s meeting attracted a standing-room-only crowd of more than 60 to the PUSD board room. The meeting was informational; administrators in attendance made it clear that the new schedule is a final decision.
Jane Golden, director of curriculum and special projects, addressed the group along with three elementary teachers and retiring assistant superintendent of pupil services, Cindy Galbo.
Several in attendance expressed dismay about the late announcement. Others worried how the schedule will affect before- and after-school childcare, and others questioned the need for 15-student reading instruction.
More P.E. Means More Smaller-Group Reading Instruction
“A few things made it possible for us not to tell you (earlier),” said Galbo. “To balance the budget we needed to have a number of things on the concession list.”
Among possible concessions, the school district considered reducing Physical Education to one section per week for grades 1-3. Doing so would shorten the elementary school week by 45 minutes.
“When the board learned (in early June) the amount of money that teacher concessions would bring back to the budget, they did add-backs and restored the second P.E. section for elementary school.”
The primary reason for restoring the P.E. section, she said, was to ensure that classroom teachers could spend classroom time on academic subjects rather than the 90-minute state P.E. requirement.
Separately, keeping the second PE section opened the possibility for staggered-reading. With the existing 90 minutes of P.E. instruction as part of the school week, administration has enough instructional minutes available for smaller-group, staggered-reading instruction.
“This may be the only way that teachers in grades 1-3 can give individualized attention to students,” Cindy Vance, a kindergarten teacher at , told Patch before the meeting.
“I’m sending former kindergarteners into a class of 30. They need more attention than that from their teacher.”
A staggered class is quieter and more focused, she added.
“Yes, it’s going to be a difficult schedule for parents and teachers,” said Vance. Everyone will be working harder, but we’re trying to make reading instruction better for students.”
Linda Stafford looks forward to less behavior management and more teaching in her first-grade classroom at Mohr.
“The amount of instruction is going to be so much more than what I’ve been able to do with 25 kids in my class all day,” said Stanford.
During the first two weeks of school, all students will attend school on the early-bird schedule and teachers will conduct reading assessments.
Reading groups will begin in week three and will be determined across grade levels, not within classrooms.
“Were going to have multiple levels of readers in the morning and in the afternoon,” said Galbo. “We want kids to be able to be in the group they need to be in and if they change levels we want to be able to put them where they need to be without changing the time of day.”
Teachers will consider feedback from parents when determining schedules.
Placing students in the correct instructional groups, Galbo said, will take precedence over families’ schedule preferences.
While a school district document states that “District staff has notified child care providers of the change in the schedule for next year,” several in attendance Tuesday said many childcare programs were not notified.
A representative of Child Day Schools said she heard of the new schedule from her families, not the school district.
Jennifer Silva of Quarry Lane School, which serves children who attend most Pleasanton elementary schools, does not know how she will meet the need of staggered drop-offs and pickups.
“I’m going to have to bring on two to three more staff to do all the extra van runs,” Silva said. “I have to schedule van runs between all the schools to make sure your children are at school or picked up on time.
“I don’t know how I’m going to it. I might have to drop this program.”
Other parents worried the new schedule will force children to spend more time in cars as parents drive between their different children’s elementary schedules and/or other schools.
Galbo and Golden agreed to bring some concerns back to the board and administration for consideration, including:
- Communicating with all local childcare providers about the new schedule
- Considering additional forums
- On the repeated question related to teachers’ full use of the 45-minute staggered reading sections, Golden and Galbo insisted the district will work closely with teaching staff and principals.
Principals will post the new schedules on websites by July 1. Start and finish times will vary from school to school.
“Hopefully this will be short lived and we’ll be able to reduce class sizes again when the economy improves” or tax measures pass, said Galbo.
Patch will continue to report timely updates regarding the new staggered-reading schedule, including a closer look how the staggered-reading schedule will work.