Madison County Schools superintendent proposes school start time change

MADISON COUNTY, Ala. - Madison County Schools Superintendent, Matt Massey, recently proposed a change to the upcoming school year's school start times.

Last week, he asked the system's Board of Education to consider pushing school start times 45 minutes on Wednesdays beginning in August 2019. This would mean that elementary, K-8, and intermediate schools would start at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesdays and high schools would start at 9:15 a.m. The change would not affect the school day end times at any grade level.

The board is still considering his proposal, with no plans yet to vote on the changes.

Massey said his administration's reasoning lies with the district's teachers. He wants to make sure they have time to work in their groups, called Professional Learning Communities. These groups allow teachers to collaborate with one another, he says, on how to help students succeed.

"We want teachers working as teams to make sure our students are learning," he said. "Teachers have to have time to review data, talk about students, the ones that are progressing at a high level, what's our plan with those, and the ones that need intervention," he stated. "It's too late to do that intervention at the end of a grading period. When the report card comes out, that's almost like a post-mortem. So what we want to do is take action as far as intervention for students, to make sure they are learning at high levels."

Massey said the PLC's are helpful to ensure teachers are not isolated when making decisions about how best to help students. It allows more of a discussion so everyone is accountable and responsible for student learning.

This plan, though, would decrease student instructional time on Wednesdays. The scholastic day on Wednesdays would become less than 6 hours. That's why Massey would need board approval on this plan.

"It's hard for our teachers to have time to work in those teams to do that. What we want to do is create a time for teachers to work," he said.

At the meeting, which you can view at this link, the board members expressed concern about busing and driver schedules, expanding the car rider line once a week, and inflexibility in parent work schedules. They worried this would cause some indirect consequences for families and the 18,000 people in the school system.

Other board members said if the PLC's are going to work, the teachers need to be given time to work.

Massey stated that schools would still be open on Wednesdays at the usual time, to accommodate parents still need to drop students off early.

"We are going to have a place for those kids to come in, they are going to be supervised," he stated. "Our principals in schools will make sure they are engaged."

Massey said this is something his administration has kicked around for a while. They have gone back and forth with advisory groups and principals to see what can work to get teachers the time they need and decided Wednesdays in the morning are the best opportunity.

"We've talked with our leadership team about what is the best way to put the in the position to serve the kids the best as possible," he said. "It is a big decision. And we understand that. We are not going to make it in a rush."

Now, the board must come to terms with how they feel about the proposal. They have several months to do that because Massey wants to wait for a few months before making a recommendation to the board for a vote on the plan.

The principals must also run it by teachers, parents, and others to get an understanding of how they feel about the idea.

"We are not going to hurry into this decision," Massey stated. "I would say sometime in the Spring is when we would look to make a decision, 'Do we want to try to do this? Or do we want to hold off on it?'"

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