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CMS poll: Should we switch up school hours?

Should Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools swap schedules so elementary schools start at 7:15 a.m. and teens can sleep an hour or so later?

CMS wants parents and students to weigh in on that question and several others related to school schedules. The district is doing an online survey through April 18, with results to be presented to the school board later this spring.

The surveys were designed with the help of parents and teachers who have been questioning the bell schedules for more than two years, since CMS made budget-driven changes in 2011. Two of those changes – adding 45 minutes to the elementary school day and adding a “late schedule” for some elementary and middle schools – have been especially controversial.

Some families say those changes leave young children exhausted and squeeze out evening time for homework, after-school activities and family togetherness. Buses serving schools that dismiss at 4:15 p.m. are on the road during evening rush hour, critics say.

Meanwhile, other families take issue with the longstanding high schools schedule: 7:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. Critics say that’s too early for teens to do their best work, while supporters say it leaves time for after-school sports, activities and jobs.

“CMS is open to exploring changes to bell schedules,” the parent survey says. “One option is to ‘flip’ schedules, so that elementary students would take on the high school schedule and high school students would take on the elementary school schedule.”

The survey, administered by the consulting firm K12 Insight, seeks opinions on various options and reports on how school schedules affect individual families.

The survey asks families about tradeoffs they would consider acceptable if schedule changes led to increased busing costs. Among the options: increasing class size, cutting staff, reducing the current level of transportation, creating longer bus rides and making students walk farther to bus stops.

Minor changes, such as moving up the 9:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. schedule by 15 minutes, could be made for 2014-15, CMS spokeswoman Stacy Sneed said. Major shifts would likely be part of the budget and planning process for 2015-16.

Faculty are also being surveyed about school schedules, Sneed said.

The surveys are online at www.cms.k12.nc.us under “Spotlight.” CMS and K12 Insight are also doing a general poll of parent satisfaction with the district and their children’s schools.

Helms: 704-358-5033; Twitter: @anndosshelms
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