The State College Area school board was presented with a plan at its meeting on Monday to lengthen and adjust the school day hours staring with the 2018-19 school year.
The plan, presented to the board by Vernon Bock, supervisor of elementary education, would move the elementary start time from 8:44 a.m. back to 8 a.m. and the day would end at 3 p.m. instead of 2:50 p.m. Middle and high school students would start at 8:40 a.m. instead of 8:10 a.m. and their day would end at 3:44 p.m. and 3:40 p.m. instead of 3:14 p.m. and 3:16 p.m. respectively.
The district is proposing the plan, which would add 54 minutes to the school day, because elementary school teachers have requested more time for core instruction, according to Bock.
The district used North Allegheny, Lower Merion, Cumberland Valley and Parkland Elementary Schools to compare school day length. North Allegheny has the longest day at six hours and 50 minutes. In comparison, State College has the shortest day at 6 hours and 6 minutes, but if the day is lengthened as proposed, the district would have a 7-hour day, the highest of all schools analyzed.
If the district implements the plan, elementary students would receive an additional 24 minutes per day of core instruction. The core subjects are math, English language arts, science and social studies.
The plan would add a world language course to the special area courses, which include art, music, library, health and physical education. The course addition would be built into the special area course time. The remaining 30 minutes would be used for an additional recess.
The proposed later start time for secondary students was based on sleep research conducted by the American Society of Pediatrics published in 2014.
The board expressed concerns over how the later dismissal might affect the academic success of students who have extracurricular activities, but Bock said the district is considering scheduling “zero” periods that would offer students an opportunity to complete course work. To handle the later dismissal, the district is also considering later start times for athletic competitions.
Superintendent Bob O’Donnell said the district spans about 150 square miles and transportation for students is an area the district is focusing on as discussions about the plan move forward. The district is conducting a transportation study to better understand the challenges that the plan presents for moving students throughout the district.
Moving forward, the district intends on scheduling public meetings for parents to offer feedback on the plans, conducting the transportation study, collaborating with non-public schools and researching available studies about longer school days.
The district expects to present the board with a final proposal in the October. The district will release more information, including the schedule of public meetings in the coming weeks.