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11/16/2012

Frequently Asked Questions about the Contract Settlement

(Updated Nov. 27, 2012) 

When will the student day begin and end next year?

The additional 30 minutes will be added to the start of the secondary school day.  Beginning in September 2013, the high school student day will be from 7:30 am to 2:30 pm. The middle school student day will be from 8 am – 3 pm.

The elementary school student day will not change; students will be in school from 9 am to 3:30 pm; however, teachers at the elementary schools and the Barclay Early Childhood Center will report 30 minutes earlier.

Is there any impact on the student day for the current school year?

No, there is no impact on the student day for the current school year.

Why are we adding the time to the beginning of the school day and not to the end?

A number of factors were considered.

We considered the impact on after-school activities, including inter-scholastic sports at the high school level, if we added the time at the end of the day.  We know that we can control the start time of games, meets, and matches where our schools are the home team, but not those that are hosted by other districts.  Our student-athletes already miss about 30 minutes of class time each time they leave school to attend away games. 

We considered the impact on students who have after-school jobs that help support their families and/or their college savings.

The impact of the change on student transportation services was a key consideration.  To contain our transportation costs, we tier our bus routes – that is, in many instances, the same bus is used for a high school run, then a middle school run, then an elementary run.  Adding the 30 minutes to the end of the school day would mean our middle and elementary schools would dismiss at the same time and we would be unable to tier our buses for these routes; the result would be a significant increase in transportation costs for our district.

We also looked at the start times of school districts in the region. At many high schools in the region, the student day begins before our current 8:00 am start time.   A number of high schools start at or before 7:30 am; a number start later. Click HERE for a chart that shows start and end times for various districts in the region.

How will the additional time be used?

Administrators at our secondary school are developing schedules to reflect the additional instructional time – and the contract language specifies “instructional time” with students.  We will not be using the time to extend lunch periods or, at the middle school level, advisory periods.  Principals will provide specific details at PTA meetings and at upcoming Curriculum & Instruction Committee meetings. (The C&I meetings are open to the public.)  The information will also be posted on the district website.

At the PreK-5 level, as we have described, the additional 30 minutes will be used for Professional Learning Community (PLC) meetings.  The time that we gain during the school day by moving those meetings will be used for core instructional time.

How will the changes to the school day impact transportation services? Food services?

Middle and high school bus routes will begin 30 minutes earlier.  The elementary bus routes will not change as a result of the new contract.   Be assured that breakfast and lunch will continue to be offered at the secondary schools (and there will be no change to the elementary food services). 

Why didn’t the administration and Board of Education share information about their objective to lengthen the school day before now?

As the Board enters into negotiations with any of the district’s six bargaining units, all parties agree at the first session to keep topics discussed strictly confidential and to take reasonable precautions to protect against the disclosure of all terms and conditions of the new contract until the bargaining unit has had the opportunity to present the proposed contract to its members. All members of the bargaining unit have the opportunity to vote on the contract.   

Once the bargaining unit has ratified the contract, the district releases information to the public prior to ratification by the Board.   Disclosure of any topics discussed prior to ratification would violate the confidentiality agreement and impede the negotiations process. 

This change to the school day will be occurring more than nine months from now.  Just as we provided information to parents and students last year well in advance of implementing the new high school schedule, during the coming months, the high school and middle school principals will be providing specific details of this change (e.g., how the additional time will be used) at PTA meetings and Curriculum & Instruction Committee meetings, which are open to the public.

How will our new school day compare in length to other districts in the state?

As we have noted, Cherry Hill’s school day, particularly at the high school level, is one of the shortest. We believe this increase in instructional time at the secondary level will make our school day comparable in length to the top public schools in the state. 

The state average is 6 hours and 53 minutes; Cherry Hill’s current school day is 6 hours and 30 minutes. Among the top ten school districts recognized in New Jersey Monthly’s most recent high school rankings, the school day length ranges from 6 hours and 35 minutes to 8 hours and 35 minutes.  

Click HERE to view a chart showing the length of the school day at New Jersey districts in the region and throughout the state, as reported in the New Jersey School Report Cards.

How long has the district been discussing the length of the school day?

In the 2008-2009 school year, we began to look at the use of time at all three school levels.  Since then, committees have designed and implemented a new schedule across all of our elementary schools, explored different scheduling models for the middle schools, and designed and implemented a new high school schedule.

In March 2010, members of the High School Scheduling Committee visited several districts throughout New Jersey where some variation of our current high school schedule was in practice.  Among many takeaways from these visits and additional investigations, it became evident that Cherry Hill has one of the shortest school days in the state.

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Check back for more questions and responses!

 

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