Elizabethtown Independent Schools Board of Education passed two separate action items that will alter school start times and add early Friday dismissal for this upcoming school year.

During the board’s regular meeting Monday, Steve Smallwood, assistant superintendent for student services and support, and Carole Brown, special programs director, presented a plan for a possible early release Fridays starting in August.

The plan suggests students would be released every Friday during the school year at 12:50 p.m. except for Elizabethtown High School, which would be released at 12:55 p.m.

During the extra time Friday, students will have various opportunities to participate in learning labs, enrichment activities and extra teaching and tutoring, Brown said.

Teachers also will have an opportunity to meet and collaborate with each other to improve and fill gaps in instruction.

Aaron Howell, principal at Helmwood Heights Elementary School, said during his time working at LaRue County Schools, the district implemented this early Friday release, which he said helped improve overall instruction because he and his colleagues could collaborate.

Smallwood said with the early release program, the district still would meet the calendar requirements of 187 employee contract days, 174 instructional days, with 1,062 instructional hours for the year.

The program passed 3-2, with Chairman Paul Godfrey and Guy Wallace voting against it. Godfrey and Wallace expressed concerns of parents and families now having to change and adapt their schedules to best suit the early release.

Smallwood also gave his proposal for staggered start times for schools in the district, specifically between middle and high school students, and elementary students.

Smallwood said safety would be improved by separating elementary students from the middle and high school students during bus rides, reduce traffic congestion and, ultimately, reduce the amount of time where students have to wait for buses to either pick them up from home or school.

When students are waiting long amounts of time, Smallwood said it can aggravate and make students impatient, causing disciplinary issues.

He also said this would give students more opportunity to sleep, possibly increasing their attention and grades if they’re more well-rested. He said this especially would be the case for high school students, who may have work or extracurricular activities that end late at night.

While elementary school times would not be affected with a start time of 7:55 a.m. and a dismissal of 2:55 p.m., Elizabethtown High School, T.K. Stone Middle School and the Valley View Education Center would have a new start time of 8:25 a.m. and a dismissal time of 3:25 p.m.

This action item was passed with Godfrey voting against the measure. Godfrey said he was concerned about these new schedule changes considering the fact the school had just undergone a challenging year because of the pandemic.

The board then conducted the evaluation of Superintendent Kelli Bush. After an executive session, the board determined Bush earned “exemplary” status for work in her first year as superintendent, citing her work during the pandemic in plans and programs to keep students learning and her experience with curriculum.

Andrew Harp can be reached at 270-505-1414 or aharp@thenewsenterprise.com.

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