Parents generally supportive after first ‘Late Start’

A little more than half the parents answering questions in an unscientific survey preferred the Jefferson City Public Schools’ new “late starts” for professional development days over the “early releases” the district used the past few years.

The margin was 54 percent to 46 percent among the 201 parents who responded to the Internet survey that district spokesman David Luther offered in his “Key Communicator” e-mail last week.

“When we filtered this answer,” Luther said in a note explaining the results, “it revealed that elementary parents tended to like early releases more and middle school and high school parents liked late starts better.”

Luther noted Tuesday the district has about 1,900 email addresses receiving the Key Communicator, which provides links to information about the schools’ news and activities.

And the e-mails are sent to a number of people, including city political and business leaders, who are not parents of children now attending the district’s schools.

Of those answering the survey, Luther reported, 31 percent each had students at the elementary or high school levels, 10 percent were in the middle schools and 27 percent had children attending “more than one level.”

This year, district officials adopted the “late start” approach — with classes at all schools beginning two hours later than normal — because more teachers could be involved with the professional education program than when the district ended schools two hours early.

“We have so many faculty who are involved in sponsoring all kinds of (afternoon) activities — clubs, speech and debate, fine arts, performing arts (and) athletics” that they missed the afternoon sessions, Superintendent Brian Mitchell said earlier this month.

Parents were asked if that philosophy helped them support the late-starts, and 74 percent said yes.

But, when asked to provide additional comments, some parents said this year’s plan for four late starts “seemed realistic,” but they were “concerned about having to coordinate for eight late starts next year.”

Other parents “did not understand how late start was advantageous for staff (over the early release),” Luther reported.

Other negatives reported: It’s easier to schedule time off from work in the afternoon to pick children up early from school, and easier to find day care for the afternoon early release.

Some positives reported by the parents: They “felt well informed of the event,” liked that they could drop students off before school began and knew those students would be supervised. They also liked that breakfast was available — although only 9 percent said their students took advantage of the at-school breakfast.

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