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School board voices concerns about updated staggered start times

During a special called Board of Education meeting Thursday evening, Stanly County Schools officials presented the latest findings on the staggered start times — and many school board officials raised several concerns.

The enrichment activities are designed to help parents who need to be at work before the bus arrives, said Amy Rhyne, director of academic support.

One of the biggest concerns though was that there was not enough attention to after school enrichment activities.

Much of the information Rhyne and Susan Brooks, director of elementary education, presented to the board was focused on before school enrichment activities for late start schools.

Under the current staggered time system, Norwood, Badin, Endy and Locust elementary schools would start at 7:15 a.m. and get out at 2:10 p.m., while Richfield, Aquadale, East Albemarle, Central, Millingport and Stanfield elementary schools would start at 8:45 a.m. and get out at 3:40 p.m.

Before school activities would involve three to four rotating stations each school could personalize to fit their students’ needs, lasting from 7:30 a.m. until 8:15 a.m. Sample activities included yoga, student leadership, clubs and Legos.

The schools have began recruiting staff to help with the enrichment activities. Each school already has a coordinator and at least one group leader, Rhyne said. Each school will have a homework help station.

Though Badin and Norwood would continue to have after school activities provided by the SPARK (Students and Parents in Academics, Relationships and Knowledge) program, Endy and Locust don’t have any proposed after school programs. The YMCA also offers after school programs to every elementary school except Millingport and Norwood.

Board member Glenda Gibson said several Locust and Endy parents have called and emailed her to express their concerns about the lack of after school programs.

Brooks said many students at Locust go to Providence Church of God for after school care. The buses could drop off students at local childcare services after school as well. Around 25 day cares have been contacted by the school system to gauge interest in helping with before school or after school care.

“I have to be honest with you, I thought we were going to be providing the same type of after school care to families” as with before school care,” said board member Anthony Graves. “So I’m really concerned about this.”

He believed the same enrichment activities that occurred before school would be offered after school.

Brooks and Rhyne said while they were told to focus on the enrichment activities before school, they would talk with the early start schools and survey parents to see if more after school programs would be needed.

Gibson was concerned many of the activities that will be provided at the schools are not fully fleshed out.

Board member Patty Crump raised concern over how much it would cost to pay teacher assistants to help with the activities.

“I would like to see some figures on how much it’s going to cost us to pay additional funds for our teacher assistants for helping in the enrichment programs,” Crump said.

Gibson was concerned with the fact that for early start schools, some children would get picked up around 5:30 a.m. For late start schools, some students wouldn’t get home until around 5:30 p.m.

“We shouldn’t be asking our children to wake up that early,” she said.

Gibson, who initially voted against staggered schools, said the school board rushed too quickly in passing a motion approving the staggered school times. She still wished they took time — as long as a year — to research and consider what was most appropriate for the students.

“The best interests of our children should be our number one goal,” she said.

Gibson also wished the board would have waited to know how much the staggered start time endeavor would cost before passing the motion.

School board chairman Melvin Poole reminded everyone that the focus of switching to a staggered start time was to maintain bus drivers.

Mike Lambert, director of transportation, said “on day one (for next year), we will have a true bus driver for every bus.” He added that 38 percent of bus drivers are projected to work six or more hours (up from almost 10 percent this past school year), which would make them full-time employees.

Lambert said there would be four transportation coordinators, one for each of the four high school districts. They will be trained this summer. The system has already started reviewing route assignments with the bus drivers in their districts.

Poole said the board would most likely meet in July for another staggered start time update.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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