Portland School Board takes 3rd shot at revised elementary school hours

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PORTLAND — The School Board is again considering new daily schedules for elementary schools next year.

At an April 7 workshop and meeting, the board heard a third proposal for start and end times in the city’s eight elementary schools.

Under the latest proposal, the Reiche, Riverton and Ocean Avenue schools would start at 8:20 a.m. and go until 2:50 p.m. East End, Hall, Longfellow, Lyseth and Presumpscot schools would go from 8:40 a.m-3:10 p.m.

Board Chairwoman Sarah Thompson said thee new times came  from conversations Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk had with “groups of stakeholders,” including city staff. Thompson said she and other board members received emails from concerned parents who don’t want certain changes, but she believes the latest proposal resolves major problems.

“We’re trying to be responsive, we know we’re never going to be 100 percent responsive to everyone’s needs, but this latest version seems to reach much further than the other times, and I’ve gotten a lot of positive emails (since April 7),” Thompson said.

She said transportation is the reason all schools can’t start and end at the same time.

“You need 20 to 25 minutes between finishing up that one group, then getting to the other,” she said.

Thompson said the board seemed “warm” to the latest proposal during the workshop and will be going forward with a public hearing on April 28, because “there seemed to be the will to make some changes from what they voted on” at a March 31 meeting.

The district first discussed changing start and end times for all the city’s public schools earlier this year to create 20 additional minutes of instructional time a day beginning in September. The original proposal would have seen varying start and end times for all the city’s schools.

Additionally, other scheduling changes include Lyman Moore and Lincoln middle schools, as well as the Bayside Learning Community. These schools will have a 7:55 a.m. to 2:25 p.m. schedule, which coincides with King Middle School, which Thompson said will solve any problems with after school activities at the middle schools.

The city’s three public high schools will start at 8 a.m. and run until 3:05 p.m. Originally, an 8:30 a.m. start was proposed for the high schools, but that was ultimately rejected.

The board is expected to vote on the latest proposal on May 5.

Thompson said she hopes this will be the last iteration of the elementary schools’ schedule, so the board can focus more time and energy on the fiscal 2016 budget.

“We need to get this done and voted on and out of the way because we have a budget,” she said, adding she hopes parents will turn out not just when they’re angry about something.

“I hope that parents will stay engaged with us, especially through the budget season, in a positive nature, and give us feedback or come out and support it to the City Council before they vote on it,” Thompson said.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.