ELMSFORD, N.Y. After a successful pilot program, the Elmsford Union Free School District will be dismissing children early from school on Mondays to allow for staff collaboration and planning.
When children return back to school after their summer vacations, their time in class Mondays will end approximately 25 minutes earlier than usual. The pilot program, which started at Alexander Hamilton High School in September 2011, was well-liked by the district's administration and staff.
"It was so successful at that level, in terms of our ability to allow staff members to get together and work collaboratively and reduce the amount of instructional time lost by students in order to accomplish it that we decided to extend it to the younger levels," said Superintendent of Schools Barbara Peters. "The absolute bottom line is finding ways to improve student achievement. That is the overall purpose."
In past years, teachers met during free school periods. However, officials felt this did not afford a long enough collaboration and did not include enough staff. Starting in September, the school's staff will convene Monday afternoons to discuss students' academic levels among teachers from different grade levels.
"It's nice that we can find some collaborative time for teachers to work together," Peters said. "But if they're not working toward the goal of improving their craft in the classroom and really looking at the needs of the children, and having an opportunity to talk about which students are struggling, then we might as well not be doing this."
With early dismissals, Peters continued, a large number of staff members can share information including identifying children at risk or in need of more help.
"For the first time, we're going to have 100 percent of the faculty involved in discussions," she said. "Instead of only having three or four teachers together during a free period, now we will have everyone in the same place at the same time. That phrase, 'It takes a whole village to raise a child' we're trying to bring that whole village together to help our children."
The new dismissal schedule might mean that parents need to rearrange their children's after-school plans. According to Peters, PTA president Liz Aprile mentioned that the early dismissal might affect some families' child care arrangements.
On Mondays beginning in September, students at Alexander Hamilton High School will be dismissed at 1:57 p.m. instead of the regular 2:24 p.m.; from Alice E. Grady Elementary School at 2:25 p.m. instead of 2:50 p.m.; and from Carl L. Dixson Primary School at 2:55 p.m. instead of 3:20 p.m.
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