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How will less classroom time benefit students and their families?

Jefferson City's Board of Education wisely shelved a proposal earlier this year to release students from school 70 minutes early most Mondays. The purpose would be to allow staff time for professional development.

However, without widespread support or consensus- building on the issue, the Jefferson City School District is bringing it back. It plans to ask the school board to approve the issue at its April 14 meeting.

Parents have expressed concerns about the proposal. As we reported in January, Nicole Myers, who has children in fourth and eighth grades, said the district didn't offer much support for parents when the school start and end times changed. She doesn't believe it will offer support during the early release days either.

Other parents have said finding rides and child care on those early pickup days will create logistical and financial problems for them.

Then there's the issue of education.

"As much as professional development is critical, it doesn't mean anything if the kids aren't in the seats," she said.

We agree. In fact, this is our chief objection to the proposal.

We haven't seen the district demonstrate a benefit for students by substantially reducing in-seat education time to train teachers. The only benefit we see is the hope of retaining and empowering teachers and staff.

Sure, a better-educated staff should result in better-educated students. But not if the students are missing 70 minutes of class almost each week.

We have to believe better options exist. Are there no existing days off during the year that could be used for professional development? What about paying incentive pay for teachers to come in an hour early or stay an hour late periodically for training?

We're not arguing teachers don't need professional development. They most certainly do. It's the responsibility of the school board and school district to come up with a plan to provide professional development without robbing students of precious classroom time.

The school board and district need to keep working to find a better solution.

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