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CMS teachers, parents seek new school hours; cost in millions?

Superintendent says changing schedule would cost millions

As 2013-14 budget planning gears up, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board heard pleas from teachers and parents who want relief from late school hours and long elementary school days.

In 2011, the board added 45 minutes to the time elementary students spend in class as part of a plan to cut busing costs on a tight budget. Teachers received no extra pay, and several said that change has left them and their students exhausted.

“We teach longer, plan less and are not compensated for the additional time,” said Teresa Connors, one of several speakers who urged the board to revise school hours.

Some also complained about a 9:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. “late schedule” at 36 elementary and middle schools, also created to save money on transportation. Parents and teachers said it puts buses on the road in rush-hour traffic and leaves little time for after-school tutoring, sports and family time.

Superintendent Heath Morrison has said it would cost millions to eliminate those changes and add more buses. Several top administrators have been meeting with parents and teachers to explore options.

Board Chairwoman Mary McCray, a retired teacher and former president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators, said after the meeting that no decisions have been made.

“We don’t want to promise and not deliver,” she said.

The board didn’t discuss school hours or other specific budget items Tuesday. Chief Finance Officer Sheila Shirley gave members a budget overview, saying there are signs of recovery but “the economy is still fragile.”

It’s too early to know how much to expect from state lawmakers and county commissioners, who provide most of the CMS budget, she said.

Board members Tom Tate and Eric Davis said they hope employees will get raises again this year. This year’s 3 percent across-the-board raise was the first most employees got in four years.

“It was meager at best and well deserved,” Davis said. “I hope we’re able to build on that in coming years.”

Before its next regular meeting, the board will hold a two-hour budget work session from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 600 E. Fourth St.

Late this month, CMS also plans to release results of its online budget survey, which ended last week. Almost 11,400 people completed the poll.

Helms: 704-358-5033
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