Every September, students and teachers returning to school deal with a whole host of changes and new challenges, from entering a new school to learning the names of new classmates and students.
When the Monomoy School District begins classes next Tuesday, students, parents and teachers will face a much more fundamental change: new school day starting and ending times.
“It's a big adjustment, on a lot of levels,” said Superintendent of Schools Scott Carpenter.
The new start times basically flip the former elementary school and middle school and high school start times. The Chatham and Harwich elementary schools will begin classes at 7:45 a.m., ending at 2:15 p.m., and the middle and high schools will start the day at 8:45 a.m. and end at 3:15 p.m. Early release Wednesdays will continue, with classes ending 40 minutes early every other Wednesday at all schools to allow professional development time for teachers.
The new times were approved by the school committee a year ago. Carpenter said he believes there's been adequate time for families to prepare for the change.
“They've had time to make different family adjustments,” he said. For many – including his own – the reality of the change, however, is “still settling in.”
“I will likely be in the office before my teenagers are waking up,” he commented.
The decision was based on research indicating that older students are not ready to learn early in the morning, but elementary age student are. Local elementary school teachers said that the last hour or more of the day was often lost because younger kids were too tired for meaningful activities.
School officials worked with Cape Destinations, the district's school bus contractor, to try to tighten up routes so that the elementary schools could start closer to 8 a.m., but doing so “wouldn't have had the high school kids getting to school on time,” Carpenter said.
“I think some people don't understand how much geographic area the buses have to cover,” he said, with middle and high school routes stretching from the Dennis town line to the east side of Chatham.
While the routes will likely need to be adjusted once the buses have been operating for a week or so, the start time for each school will not change, said Carpenter.
Sports schedules have been adjusted to accommodate the later dismissal time. Carpenter noted that the Nauset system has been operating on a similar schedule for a few years now. “You're school partners work with you on that,” he said.
The schools are working on ways to accommodate working parents in both the morning and afternoon. There are a number of morning clubs at the middle school that start an hour before classes begin, and the cafeteria and library at the high school will be open at 7:30 a.m. for early dropoffs. Chatham Elementary School will be holding after-school clubs in conjunction with Monomoy Community Services, and at the Harwich Elementary School, the Monomoy Cooperative Learning Program provides after-school programs. The Chatham Recreation Department is once again sponsoring the PARK after-school program for all Monomoy Middle School students, held daily at the Chatham Community Center.
The new schedule could also create opportunities, Carpenter said, such as elementary teachers being able to coach sports or advise clubs at the middle and high school level, which they couldn't do before because their classes ended too late in the day.
Other programs, such as morning gym time or additional clubs, will be explored as the school year progresses.
“I think there are some changes to be realized that we haven't even scratched the surface of yet,” he said.
New Monomoy School Smartphone App
As part of a revamped website design through a new contractor, Blackboard, a web development company which specifically focuses on K-12 school system sites, the Monomoy District last week launched a new smartphone app. The app basically pulls information from the website and puts it in one location, said Carpenter. Parents can check students' grades and attendance, get notifications, lunch menus, school calendars and sports schedules through the app. It also includes links to the districts Facebook, Twitter and YouTube sites. The new site also gives administrators the ability to send email blasts and text messages for school cancellations and other emergencies.
“It provides more communications and more information,” Carpenter said of the new website and app.
The site will also link to the Google classroom function that many teachers use for assignments, background material and other information. School directories also include biographies of teachers as well as their own links.
The app is available free for both Android and iPhone platforms. Search for “Monomoy Regional SD.”
Students will see some other changes next week. Harwich Elementary School has new flooring, paint and lighting. “The whole place sparkles now,” Carpenter said, after the first make-over in many years. At Chatham Elementary School, the playground has new turf, replacing the previous dusty expanse. The school is also transforming its library into a “learning commons” under a new librarian.
“A lot of little projects came to fruition over the summer,” Carpenter said.