Parents got their first look Tuesday night at how teachers will spend their time after Glacier Valley and Mendenhall River students are released two hours and 15 minutes early on Fridays.
Shorter school hours on Fridays will allow the district to start the "Launching Literacy" program, which will include stratagizing sessions to improve teaching methods for reading.
"I'm overwhelmed by the presentation," said parent Ana Betit. "They should have let parents know they were thinking of other options."
Glacier Valley principal Ted Wilson said a variety of options were reviewed, including extending teacher's hours and releasing students early on different days.
For the program to work, teachers of all grade levels need to meet together for roundtable discussions, often led by guest experts, to discuss how to improve students' learning.
School days from Monday to Thursday will be lengthened 15 minutes to compensate for the loss of classroom time. Students also will not have lunch or recess on Fridays when they are released at 12:30 at Glacier Valley Elementary and 12:45 at Mendenhall River schools.
Students will miss a total of 15 minutes of classroom time each week.
"Losing eight hours a year of school doesn't feel good to me," said parent Theresa Williams.
School administrators said they are focusing on quality teaching, rather than quantity.
The program came out of a task force of teachers and administrators that met January through May to discuss ways to better prepare students to meet federal standards, including the No Child Left Behind Act.
Other states are shortening school days to give teachers more time to sharpen their skills.
Wilson said the idea was discussed in the spring at site council meetings, which are open and advertised to parents.
"Usually when a new program comes along, the younger teachers like it, the older ones hate it and the administration gets to advance their careers because of it," said parent Steve Whitney.
Starting Sept. 2, one week after school starts, teachers will spend an hour and half strategizing on how to teach better reading skills. The meetings will be structured and specific goals will be set.
"It's not one program, but a bunch of different strategies we'll be looking at," said Mendenhall River teacher Kelley Harvey, adding that different techniques work for different children.
Teacher Wendy Connelley said it's hard to find time for lesson planning in a given day. During regular school hours, some teachers may have only 15 minutes for planning, while students are at recess or lunch, she said.
Parent Denise Guizio said she was excited about the program because she thought it could help her third-grade child, who is reading at a first-grade level.
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