By Amanda Wolkin
While the Fulton County Board of Education will save $1.1 million by shortening the 2010-2011 school year by three days, some students and teachers are questioning just how beneficial the change actually is.
At North Springs Charter High School, for example, there are questions of whether the calendar change is a good idea.
“I understand the financial benefits, but it doesn’t seem like a lot of thought was put into how it will affect students,” said junior Jenna Klorfein. “No one wants to stay in school longer each day, especially in a school system that doesn’t listen to its students’ opinions.”
The calendar, which will begin on Aug. 23 and end on May 27, will compensate for the lost days by extending each school day by about 10 minutes. While the time difference may seem minimal, leaving North Springs at 3:40 was ill-received by all students questioned.
“I transferred from Riverwood to North Springs this year,” said junior Aaron Wasser. “At Riverwood, school went from 8:40 to 3:40. One of my favorite parts of North Springs is leaving at 3:30. Those 10 minutes in the afternoon make a huge difference.”
Despite system officials’ recommendations to adopt the 177-day calendar for the next two years, the Fulton Board has decided to only implement the change for the 2010-2011 school year in order to evaluate what effect it has on the state’s fourth-largest school system and its 88,000 students. But, for many teachers who suffered salary cuts from the three-day furlough earlier this August, the one-year change is questionable.
“It’s yet another example of the school board doing the wrong thing for the wrong reason,” said North Springs teacher David Courtenay-Quirk. “Teachers’ salaries are already low enough; cutting them more will ultimately drive good teachers away. They’re sacrificing quality education for the sake of a few dollars.”
The extra time each day should not have a big impact on the ability to effectively teach kids, however, said Woodward Charter Elementary School principal Ruth Baskerville.
“I don’t think it will significantly impact instruction if we educators use the extra time each day wisely,” she said. “For example, if we consciously add more time to a major subject area daily, it will make a positive difference in achievement scores. If we don’t do something deliberate with the bits of time, it will be added to readiness to begin or end the day.”
Scott Bernarde contributed to this article.