Photo by Jim Massara
Parent Wendi McArthur, holding laptop, with daughters Taylor, Marquela and Dionica, will have to leave work early to pick up her children if Wednesday classes are shortened.
JONESBORO — Unhappy parents may cause Clayton County school officials to reconsider a move for the coming year in which they would shorten one school day every week by as much as 90 minutes, sending children home sooner.
“The final decision is probably still a couple of days away,” Clayton County Public Schools spokesman David Waller said Friday.
The initial decision to shorten Wednesday classes was first announced in a letter from Superintendent Edmond Heatley’s office dated July 18 and sent to parents earlier this month.
Under a “minimum day schedule,” elementary schools would let out 60 minutes early, middle schools would be released 75 minutes early and high schools would be released 90 minutes early.
In addition, Unidos and Eddie White Academies would let out an hour early, and Elite Scholars Academy and the Ash Street Center would let out 75 minutes early.
The changed schedule would have accommodated teacher meetings that are part of the new Common Core curriculum Clayton is adopting, Waller said.
In the past, teachers have had to work meetings in around the edges of their already busy schedules. “All those things add up to the potential for our teachers working extremely long days,” Waller said.
The problem is that shorter school days for children affect the parents’ work schedules, too. Many have already called school offices to complain.
One caller was Rosalind Brooks of Conley, who said she may have to move her children to schools closer to her employer to accommodate the new schedule.
“Twelve o’clock and 1:45? What are we supposed to do with our kids?” Brooks said. “No, I’m not happy with it.”
Ashley Boyd of Jonesboro was more inclined to go with the flow. “When it comes to my kids I stop what I’m doing anyway,” she said while escorting her children into the Clayton County Public Library on Battle Creek Road. “It’s not going to cause an inconvenience to my schedule. It’s just another thing to adjust to.”
Students saw it differently. When asked how he felt about the shortened school day, Kaleb Jones of Jonesboro, who’s about to enter Mount Zion High School, answered simply “happy.” And Neveah Diaz of Jonesboro said she thought it was just “good.”
Others didn’t see it coming. Parent Wendi McArthur of Jonesboro, sitting with her children in the library lobby while working with her notebook computer, said that “this is the first time I’m hearing about it.” Its impact? “Oh my, I’ll have to get off work early.”
Changes to parents’ schedules were the biggest concern.
“If they [children] have to come early and nobody’s there to watch them, that’s a problem,” said Teddy Diaz, who just moved to Jonesboro from Delaware.
Brooks, an administrative assistant with a ceramics firm that operates 24 hours a day, said her request to her employer for an early leave to accommodate the schedule change was granted — but reluctantly.
“The boss wanted to know if I could just work it out,” Brooks said, who added that as many as 100 other employees at her firm may be affected.
Although the schedule change isn’t on the agenda for Monday’s school-board work session, it may well be discussed there.
“We really do understand that our parents have concerns,” Waller said. “The plan is to move forward, but our ears are open to the concerns of parents.”