If I can remember correctly, I was a late bird all throughout 1st to 3rd grade at Ocean View Elementary School. But I had two luxuries 10 years ago that some elementary students don’t have now: a stay-at-home mom and a stable economy.
Childcare had never been a problem for my family; in fact, it had seemed a daily privilege that I was excluded from. I was jealous of my friends who made sushi or watched movies or just hung out after school at Kid’s Corners or other after school programs. I guess I didn’t know how lucky I was that I had a parent waiting at home to pick me up at 3:05 pm every day.
The success of the early bird/late bird staggered schedule can be vouched for by generations of former Albany elementary students, parents, and teachers, but its existence faces challenges posed by our current economy.
The theme of 2008 has been change. But that change doesn’t always have positive consequences. Governor Schwarzenegger recently declared California to be in a state of fiscal emergency. Parents, who were once stayed at home or worked only part-time, find themselves working full time just to make ends meet. With Albany’s unique staggered schedule, they only have two options: to either go to work later-which is sometimes nonnegotiable-or to pay for childcare. Some have been asking for another option, to lengthen school days or provide childcare or an alternate service for their children.
I am personally all for lengthening school days. According to AUSD Board Member David Glasser, Albany Unified is the only school district in California that waived the minimum instructional minute requirement. In other words, Albany elementary students are getting less instructional time than any other school in the state. While the quality of those limited minutes is higher than the majority of schools that are meeting that requirement, more instructional time may not help but it certainly cannot hurt.
One proposed scenario was to dissolve the staggered schedule altogether but still keep the instructional reading time. Students would arrive at 8:30 am and be dismissed at 3:05 pm daily. During the early bird hour, half the students would study with the teacher and the other half would go to art, PE, or music. The groups would consolidate for the regular school day and then switch for the last hour of class. This way, we can increase the school day for all students as well as provide more time for music, art, and PE.
It seems like the perfect solution until we consider the hundreds of thousands of dollars this plan would require, $375,000 more per year to be precise. Given the current economic situation, this is simply not feasible. Staying with the current staggered schedule, whether we lengthen the day by 20 minutes or not, brings us back to the drawing board and the issue about childcare.
Albany elementary education is going to require change. But that change is going to come at either the cost of parents, teachers, or most likely both. But isn’t it worth it for the sake of our children’s education?