Have a say
• Moffat County High School is looking for input on the issue of late start vs. early dismissal
• To vote in a survey, visit moffatsd.org, go to the high school's page and click "Take the survey."
• Call Thom Schnellinger with questions or concerns at 826-6550
Thursdays are different from any other day at Moffat County High School. Because of a teacher collaboration time, each period is shorter by about seven minutes and classes start at 9 a.m. instead of the usual 8:10. And, 10 percent of students show up late.
On any other day of the week, it's closer to 3 percent.
"It's obvious that students are treating the late start a little differently," principal Thom Schnellinger said at the June 28 School Board meeting.
For students who drive or have rides to school, the late start means sleeping in an extra hour. The buses, however, run on the same schedule as any other day, leaving bussed students to their own devices for an hour.
Schnellinger said the significant increase in tardy students on Thursdays might be because many students get off the bus and head down to Safeway or to a friend's house, and seem to be indifferent to getting back to the school in time for first period.
"It is a little bit of a mystery to me," he said. "But, the tardies are creating enormous problems for teachers, and we want to look at doing an early release instead."
The issue of the late start came up seven years ago when the school decided to implement a collaborative period for teachers to discuss curriculum and teaching methods.
Teachers' planning periods rarely matched up during the school day, so the school decided on a late start on Thursdays to accommodate a 50-minute collaborative period.
Schnellinger is looking for input from parents on whether to keep the current schedule or switch to an early dismissal.
The early dismissal would ensure the same morning routine for every day of the week, Schnellinger said.
The collaboration period would take place at the end of the day after the early release at 2:40 p.m. Classes would begin at the usual time of 8:10 a.m.
Schnellinger said the school would keep the library and computer labs open and engage students in a study period if they needed to stay after school for sports or other organizations.
"Athletes and coaches can benefit from this extra study time," he said. "We could develop special tutoring programs with paraprofessionals."
However, the early release, if implemented, would require a certain amount of responsibility on the part of students in the afternoon. Since buses still will leave at the usual release time, students will have to be back up at the school in time to go home.
"They just have to get on a bus," he said. "If they miss the bus, well, they'll learn quickly the consequences."
School Board member and parent Karen Stillion said she doesn't mind either way.
"If you tell me when and where my kids have to be in school, I will make sure they're there," she said. "For the Stillion family, they've really enjoyed the late start, because they like to sleep in. I think some parents just feel like they have more control when their kids are sleeping in the morning."
She said some parents worry about knowing where their high school students are during that free hour.
"The problem is, when they're sleeping in on a Thursday, we know where they are," Stillion said. "If they were let out early, we wouldn't be as sure of where they were."
However, Schnellinger said that either way, students are left to their own devices.
"When we're talking about an early release, students can still stay or go downtown if they choose to just like in the mornings," he said. "But, we really want to work with athletes and coaches to try to bridge that hour in the afternoon."
Schnellinger brought up the idea for having a "coach's table" for ineligible athletes to catch up on their work.
He also said it was an opportunity for local businesses to offer seminars on work force readiness.
The school is open to input before the issue is raised again in September.
Schnellinger encouraged parents and community members to vote in an online survey at moffatsd.org, or call him at 826-6550 with questions or ideas.
"I'm fine with talking to people and getting their thoughts and concerns," he said. "So far, people have brought up some good points, but I haven't heard anyone dead set against it."