Empire editorial: District needs to hear out parents on schedule

Posted: Thursday, August 04, 2005

Some parents of elementary school students got a jolt last week when they learned that their children will get out of school more than two hours early every Friday in the coming school year.

Administrators and teachers have asked parents to understand that teachers need learning time, too, and that Friday afternoons will be for working on better teaching techniques.

These sessions may well improve instruction, but it's a lot to ask of parents, and it comes without a lot of notice to some of the surprised parents of Glacier Valley Elementary and Mendenhall River Community schools. Not insignificantly, parents will now have to come up with a plan for third-graders getting out of school on a kindergarten schedule. But more important is that children will lose 10 hours of instruction during the school year.

The schools came to their decision after a task force of teachers and administrators explored ways to meet federal standards such as the No Child Left Behind Act. If an early release is the best way to improve the quality of instruction, so be it. But that strategy and its necessity have yet to be adequately articulated to the public.

An informational meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Aug. 9 at the Mendenhall River Community School library. Proponents of the plan should be prepared to defend it against a potentially hostile crowd. But they also should understand that they're messing with what is most near and dear to parents, and the communication must go both ways. It is unfortunate that parents are left feeling excluded from such an important decision. District officials should seriously consider their complaints and suggestions.

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