Are School Schedules Fair to Students, Parents?

Start times, dismissal times, bus routes and summer vacation. There are lots of factors that go into school schedules, and whenever school systems tinker with them, somebody ends up unhappy.

Several metro Atlanta school systems have been tackling the complicated issue of school schedules recently, treading into a topic that's sure to upset many parents.

The Atlanta Public School System recently decided to wait until March to design a calendar that not only meets state requirements and encourages attendance and achievement, but also considers the needs of families.

Transportation concerns are one of the main issues facing APS. At a recent Grady High School public forum, attendees were told that changing bus schedules and school start and end times would result in improved student safety, on-time arrival, breakfast participation and ride times for special needs students, as well as avoiding having to add 50 new buses.

DeKalb County's embattled school board made an unpopular decision last fall to shorten the summer break and adopt a so-called "balanced" schedule. The move was supported by most teachers but not popular with parents. Summer break was shortened by two weeks, with vacation days built into the fall and winter.

Classes under the new calendar begin for students on Aug. 5 and end on May 29, 2014.

The Decatur School System caught some flak when it changed the start times for its one high school and middle school, its 4/5 Academy and two elementary schools. Several bus routes were also adjusted.

What do you think about the start and end times for your local schools? Does your child's vacation schedule work for your family? Is there a better way to make schools run on a schedule that works for kids, parents and school employees? Tell us what you think in the comments area below.

Related Items:

APS Calendar Vote Pushed to March

APS Proposes Adjusted School Day Start and End Times for 2013-14

School Calendar Options Open for Public Comment

DeKalb School Board Chooses Calendar Opposed by Most Parents

DeKalb Schools Approve 'Balanced' Calendar

Decatur School Board OKs Later Start Time for Decatur High Next Year

Chrys January 24, 2013 at 11:10 AM
I think Aug 5 is too early to go back to school. Aug 15th or 20th is a much better start date. I also think elementary schools should start later. None of the times take I to account teachers that may have little children they need to take to school.
Chris Murphy January 24, 2013 at 12:25 PM
The schedules are built *only* taking into consideration the type of work schedule the admin.'s want. Aug. 5 is assinine. Days/weeks off during the year kill working parents. The bus schedules that consist of the same bus picking up elementary kids and delivering them, going back for middle school kids and getting them there, and then the high school kids after all that- does not work, anywhere. Where it is used, either one group (or all) are late, or parents finally give up and drive their kids to school. Many/most APS parents do not have that option.
Angela Minyard January 24, 2013 at 12:34 PM
Buses picking up elementary school kids before 7am is inconvenient for most people. The little ones go to the bus stop in the dark, often without breakfast. It is hard for most families, and should be changed. Starting school at 9am instead of 8:45 would be great!
Kelly B. January 24, 2013 at 12:55 PM
The extended breaks both in the Fall and in February create a hardship for working parents. While many working parents already need to make arrangements for their children for certain holidays, Thanksgiving Break, the extended Christmas/Winter Break, and Spring Break, this adds yet two more full weeks to the school calendar in which these parents will need to find appropriate care. Besides the financial burden this creates for many, I believe it will be much more difficult for providers to offer these camps/programs, as these will fall over non-traditional periods within the year, and it will be nearly impossible for them to obtain the staff that they need (often times college students who are on break) to fill these important roles. Changing to a "balanced" calendar is a major issue for the working parents of Atlanta who value their Summer Breaks with their children when it is much more feasible to schedule family vacations and Summer Camps that cover traditional work hours.
Dawn Forman January 24, 2013 at 01:53 PM
The focus should be on the children and NOT the adults. School is not a babysitting service for parents and its intent should be to educate the children to the best of the districts ability. How do these early start dates at the beginning of the year effect children and their learning? Do teachers spend time reteaching material after the week long breaks? How do early start times effect the children? To me these are the questions parents and educators should be asking. Whether the start times and vacations are convenient to parents is irrelevant, if it effects the children's learning in a positive way. If these breaks and early start times are not improving the quality of education, than that is what parents should be discussing. Hearing parents complain about breaks being unconvient is on par with the way those ahead of many school districts fail to realize that public schools are to educate our children and not for adult convience of any kind.
Jennie January 24, 2013 at 02:23 PM
A 7:45 start time is too early for elementary school children. I feel like it sets the kids up for a crazy morning routine with trying to get them dressed, properly fed, and at school in time and in a positive mood ready to learn. 8:00 is much more reasonable. And a 9:05-4:05 schedule for middle school students is way too late. Middle school is when homework really is time consuming. Our kids need adequate time to do their homework and by the time they get home it will be closer to 5. Again setting our kids up for difficulties. And a 9 o'clock start time...please they should be nearing the end of their first class by then. When is the next meeting on this? Or is it too late?
Brian Crowe January 24, 2013 at 04:18 PM
I've always wondered why elementary and middle schools didn't start later and end later, with high schools doing the opposite. That would make sense, as most high schoolers have after-school activities or part-time jobs. I'm thinking 7-2 for high schools, 8-3 for middle and 9 or 9:30 for elementary. Of course, just because those are the start times doesn't mean kids can't get there earlier and use the library or something. Also, it makes no sense to me given our miserably hot summers to be using the extra air-conditioning required for an early August start. I say start school right after Labor Day and end it right before Memorial Day.
J Grouchy January 24, 2013 at 04:22 PM
I seem to recall the routine as opposite when I was a kid, the schedule starting and ending earlier the older we got instead of the other way around...
BRP January 24, 2013 at 04:29 PM
If APS can find time for two week-long breaks in the fall semester (an utter nightmare for families with working parents, by the way), then surely they can use ONE of those weeks to produce an August 12 start. The proposed schedule (and earlier start time for elementary students) is going to create lots of complications for working parents.
Jennie January 24, 2013 at 04:33 PM
And that is exactly oppostie of the proposed schedule. I agree with you....they have it backwards.
Danielle DiMaio January 24, 2013 at 05:30 PM
Can someone please explain to me the reasoning behind having elementary students starting so early? The daily schedules of the schools make absolutely no sense. And while I agree that this entire thing should be about the children and their education and development...it...unfortunately is not. It is very likely (and entirely) about the wants of the administrators and workarounds that come as a result of a crappy school board/system. If there was some kind of reference that could back up the supposed pros of a balanced schedule, I am all for reading it. And in regards to complaining parents about time off of work...These crazy schedules are an issue. Unless there is some sort of mandate requiring employers to allow their employees to accomodate the wacky schedules, and until balanced schedules are the norm and childcare is readily available, how can a parent who is unemployed as a result of having to adapt to these abnormal schedules, provide and foster an environment that is condusive to a child learning and developing? I hate whiners too, but in this case, they are related and the complaints are somewhat valid.
Decaturette January 24, 2013 at 05:58 PM
That approach assumes that disruption in family schedules doesn't affect children and their learning. But it does. When you make life hard for working parents, you make life hard for the children too.
Decaturette January 24, 2013 at 06:09 PM
In City Schools of Decatur, when teachers/administrators were polled before moving to a balanced schedule, 2/3 wanted the balanced schedule. When parents were polled, 2/3 did not want the balanced schedule. The administrators made the decision and the School Board signed off on it. I believe that a poll has happened since but haven't seen the results. In a public school system, what the administrators want wins every time. You would think that the parents, as the taxpayers, would have more influence but that's not the dynamic I have observed. If parents want more influence, they have to figure out how to wield more political power. Voting for the School Board and school councils/leadership teams don't seem to cut it.
Tracie Scott January 24, 2013 at 06:15 PM
I don't think the case has been made that this change will benefit our kids enough to offset the concerns of parents. And let's face it, for those of us who work, it is a delicate balancing act. I expect my kids will not benefit because they'll be wishing they had another couple of weeks of time at the pool with their friends. Friends who are leaving DeKalb schools for alternatives because of foolishness like this...
Decatur Fan January 24, 2013 at 07:55 PM
The number of days students go to school has not changed-- it is still 180. Whether we as parents pay for camps during the summer or during the Fall or Winter Breaks, I find the cost to be the same. My children enjoy a week off from school every six weeks with a shorter summer.
denise brooks January 25, 2013 at 10:18 AM
Raised in Florida we went to school after Labor Day. Georgia school system calendar is design for politics that surround their vacation times. Example Henry County School children return to school August then Sept. have a week for fall break what the world is fall break it you going to teach, to soon for a break. Parents have to spend money for care ridiculous whats the purpose.Then Feb. winter break, just had Thanksgiving Break and Christmas Break. Too many breaks. They need to go back to the basic it really works. That Sweet Jesus my last child grad. no more Public School......
Chris Murphy January 25, 2013 at 11:44 AM
Research that is out there does not conclusively point to one calendar or another as having a better academic effect. That said, the states that truly do have a "traditional" calendar- i.e., start around Labor Day, end after Memorial Day, much less frequent days and/or weeks off in between- lead the nation in all measures of academic achievement.
Dawn Forman January 26, 2013 at 01:56 AM
Decatur Mom, we don't have children for our convenience. Public schools are not here for a parent's convenience. They are set up to educate children. As a tax payer and parent, I want them to use best practices that show good results time and time again. Sadly too many schools here fly by the seat of their pants do what is best for those in charge, and this has nothing to do what is best for the children and their learning. Most schools up North have a September-June schedule and are far superior than even the City of Decatur Schools.
M R Rao January 26, 2013 at 06:49 AM
Already, the authorities responsible for changes : parents, schools, government and other organizations have more than enough inputs with them. Review them all and obtain consent especially from the parents and speed up new calendar timings without compromising the SAFETY of children. Thanks
M R Rao January 26, 2013 at 06:51 AM
Take the opinions of all the parents, obtain consensus and expedite new calendar timings : parent friendly one ASAP
Decaturette January 27, 2013 at 07:08 AM
DF: Your point is? September to June sounds great especially for families who have relatives in the rest of the U.S. which has September to June schedules. It's the so-called "balanced", I call "interruptive", schedule that is not family-friendly.


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