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CMS won’t support shortening elementary school day

Bad news if you’re one of the many parents that’s clamored for a change in school bell times in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

Superintendent Ann Clark is now on the record saying that she will not recommend shortening the elementary school day.

That was one of the changes advocated fiercely by a special task force convened two years ago. They would undo a number of cost-saving measures the school board approved in 2011 to offset budget cuts.

By staggering school start times, CMS saved money on busing. Elementary schools added 45 minutes to their day. A number of elementary and middle schools moved from a 3:30 p.m. dismissal time to 4:15 p.m.

Clark said she isn’t in favor of shaving time off the elementary school day at a time when a number of schools need to improve test scores. She did, however, say she is going to make sure that elementary school teachers get 45 minutes of planning time each day. CMS is also including four early release days in next year’s calendar.

It now also looks even more unlikely that the district will adopt two other changes to bell schedules that the task force recommended, ones that would eliminate the 4:15 p.m. dismissal time and delay high school start times.

Chief Academic Officer Brian Schultz said Tuesday that district staff could not find compelling evidence that the 4:15 p.m. end time for elementary and middle schools has impacted academics or teacher turnover. And delaying high school start times would cost millions of dollars at a time when budgets are strained.

“Until we’re in a climate where our funders are providing us more resources, I think we’ve done all we can do,” board member Eric Davis said. “I would not devote any more time to this effort.”

But decisions on those final two recommendations aren’t a done deal. Clark told me after Tuesday’s school board meeting that they’ll be wrapped up in the magnet school review the district is still going through. She said since so many of the 4:15 p.m. dismissal schools (and high schools, too) are magnets, it wouldn’t make sense to do them separately.

Expect more on the magnet schools in April and May.

Dunn: 704-358-5235;

Twitter: @andrew_dunn

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