CAPE ELIZABETH — The School Board’s draft calendar for the 2016-17 school year proposes more early release days at Pond Cove Elementary School.
The seven early release days, up from five this year, would be used as professional development days for teachers. The School Board reviewed the calendar Dec. 8 and will continue to work on it over the next couple of months.
Superintendent of Schools Meredith Nadeau said more early release days were added at the elementary school because the staff has reacted positively to them and requested more.
But Board member Barbara Powers said she knows from her experience as a teacher that too many early release days are an interruption.
“I loved having the time, but it sort of threw the equilibrium of the class off,” she said.
Combined with early release days scheduled at the elementary school level and district-wide, as well as other days off, more than half of the 38 weeks in the school year would be interrupted at Pond Cove. At the meeting, Powers asked Principal Kelly Hasson to speak with staff and report back to the board on how they feel about having so many interruptions in their schedule.
The board also asked Nadeau about surveying parents; Nadeau said the department could do that.
School Board member Joanna Morrissey said the board has received a complaint from one parent who said it would be hard to find child care, especially when the babysitter is an older sibling or another older student who doesn’t have early release on those particular days.
“I am wondering how a calendar with seven (early release) days may add to that feeling of angst for Pond Cove parents,” Morrissey said.
Board member John Christie said one way to address backlash would be by communicating with parents about the purpose of early release days.
“I think if it’s viewed principally in the context of child care, we’re not going to come out very well,” he said. “If we can view this in the context of the greater educational purpose, people may be more sympathetic to what we’re trying to do with these professional days.”
Some Pond Cove parents interviewed outside the school on Wednesday said they understand.
“I support the teachers taking as much time and getting all the resources they need,” Alissa Worthing said. “We ask a lot of them.”
Worthing, who works at home, said child care isn’t an issue for her, but she knows it can be a burden for a lot of parents.
“It’s not a big interruption in my life, but I understand that it would be for other parents,” she said.
Tim Pollick said it’s hard for parents to pick up children on early release days or to arrange a sitter. He said he works nights, so it won’t affect him, but he said it’s a challenge for single parents and those who work during the day.
“It doesn’t sound like a good idea for parents,” he said. “It’s a little bit disruptive. It seems like it’d be cumbersome.”
Amanda Leen agreed, and offered an alternative time for professional development.
“It’s tough for working parents,” she said. “I’d love to see professional development days done over the summer so it doesn’t impact children’s education.”
Tracy Grela had another suggestion.
“I think it’d be better if they had the whole day off, because with half a day off they don’t get much done,” she said.
Grela said this would result in fewer days that are interrupted because professional development time would be consolidated.
Pollick said he likes the idea of development. “I hate the idea of holding our instructors back from being the best they could be,” he said.
Pond Cove Elementary School in Cape Elizabeth may have more early release days next year so teachers can have more time for professional development.