Julie Aranibar votes against 9 a.m. lunch time for high schools in Manatee County, Florida

Congratulations to Julie Aranibar, a wise school board member who voted against early dismissals of students in Manatee County. For the past four years, this district has dismissed students two hours early every Wednesday.  Hours are extended the other four days. Merab-Michal Favorite of the Bradenton Times  reported high school students eat lunch at 9 a.m. on Wednesdays and some people say “the crunched schedule can sometimes mean less time to complete important tests.”

At a meeting on July 25, the school board voted 3-1 to continue this schedule, with Aranibar dissenting. Favorite included the following information in her article in the Bradenton Times:

 Several parents came forward claiming they liked early-outs because it allowed periods for other extracurricular activities and tutoring. However Aranibar pointed out that the shortened schedule negatively affects working-class parents, like waitresses, who can’t leave work when they make the most money at a specific time of the day.

“For parents who are involved and are able to make the arrangements, early outs can be a very good thing. For parents who work and are lower-wage earners, shortened days are a scheduling nightmare.”

In an earlier article,  Favorite gave the following summary of the scheduling issue:

On Wednesdays, elementary schools let out at 1:15 p.m., middle schools at 2:10 p.m. and high schools at 12:30 p.m. in order to give teachers more time for training and planning classes. However, opponents of the early dismissal point out that it is a hardship for working parents, a scheduling nightmare and a chance for kids to get into trouble.

Does recess before lunch lead to increased consumption of fruits and vegetables?

Do students eat more fruits and vegetables if they have recess before lunch? That is a possible explanation why one school in the Thompson School District in Colorado had less plate waste compared to the other two elementary schools studied. Rebecca Jones, Education News, Colorado , reported the school with less waste, Cottonwood Plains Elementary, schedules recess before lunch, while the other two schools have recess after lunch.

At the elementary schools, nearly all the students took the offered entrée of the day and most of them opted for the canned fruit option. But fewer than half selected the fresh fruit or vegetable of the day. The students typically left 20 to 25 percent of their entrée uneaten. But at two of the three schools, the amount of fruit served that ended up in the trash topped 40 percent, while between 32 and 44 percent of the vegetables were thrown away.

The amount of uneaten food dropped significantly at the third school, however. There, just 29 percent of canned fruit, 25 percent of fresh fruit and 24 percent of vegetables went uneaten.

Stephanie Smith conducted the plate waste survey for the school district, using a digital camera to photograph the trays of the students before and after lunch. Milk was poured into a measuring cup. If a tray was hard to estimate the leftover food was weighed. “Since the district is very good about maintaining standard portion sizes, we can get to within 10 percent in estimating how much es eaten.”

“What research has shown is that when recess is before lunch, kids are settled down,” she said, “and they’re hungry because they’ve been out playing, so they tend to eat more food.”

Milk consumption was also better at Cottonwood Plains. Only 18 percent of the milk went undrunk, versus 33 percent and 45 percent at the other two schools.

At the middle schools, nearly half the fresh fruit was not eaten and more than a third of the canned fruit. At the high schools the proportion of fruits and vegetables that were uneaten ranged between 13 and 39 percent.


The Fairfax County school board did not actually vote to allow Monday early dismissals

How did the Fairfax County school board  approve early dismissals on Mondays? There was no motion to approve this major policy change, it was simply reported as a consensus of the board. Here are two  excerpts of the minutes of the school board meeting held February 25, 1971:

Summary of Actions Taken

Length of School Day. It was the consensus of the Board that the Superintendent and staff could assist schools in moving to a modified schedule where desired (no motion by the Board). [page 1]


Mr.   Davis [Superintendent S. John “Jack” Davis] made some introductory remarks to the report on the modified elementary school day, indicating that several elementary schools that have extended their day are closing one-half day early per week. He stated he had not realized before the extent to which this adds to the clerical and administrative burden of these staffs, and expressed appreciation to the principals for the way in which they were handling this problem. Mr. Harold Ford, Area IV Superintendent, presented the details of the report regarding the elementary school day, indicating it was desirable from the standpoint of bringing about the program going on in the elementary schools. He reported one elementary school in Area IV switched to the modified school day during the second semester of the prior school year. By means of visual aid supplies, Mr. Ford showed the basic schedule for the elementary school and the modified school day. The present regular elementary school schedule contains 30 hours and 50 minutes per week, while the modified schedule calls for 31 hours per week. The modified schedule runes from 8:30 a.m., to 3:00 p.m., except one day per week from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Mrs. Mary Mr. Musick, Principal of Kings Park Elementary School, was also present together with Mrs. Rita Gillespie, a teacher at the Laurel Ridge Elementary School. Mrs. Gillespie explained the application of individualized instruction under this modified school day and stated that it requires a large block of uninterrupted planning time for the faculty in thinking about the individual child and the diagnosis of his total needs, and the faculty planning together to meet those needs. In this way, they build viable relationships and realize the goal of individualized learning for the unique problems of each child. Mrs. Music also advised that their school used a plan of early closings on the modified schedule so that groups of teachers could plan together in carrying out a program for a group of children assigned to them. The faculty thus needs a large block of time for this cooperative planning and discussion. She stated this work has resulted in better diagnosis of the individual child’s needs, better planning, and better teaching. Also, there are more choices for groups of different skills. Mrs. Musick described how teachers evaluate pupils about the movement of children throughout the building, and indicated that multiage groupings are easier to accomplish. The teachers know the pupils better and have fewer discipline problems. The teachers have a better understanding of the child and do a better job in the total instructional program. She felt the most important advantages were that the children seem to be happier in their educational experience, and there was better teacher morale. Read the rest of this entry »

Time and Learning Task Force called for additional resource teachers for schools that might choose full day Mondays

Starting in 1999, Project Excel provided full day Mondays for 16 elementary schools in Fairfax County.  However, the school board ended this program because the cost was considered too high. The last three schools which had the full day schedule will switch back to early dismissals on Mondays this September.

Clearly it is time to reconsider some earlier models for full day Mondays that would not be as expensive as Project Excel.  The Time and Learning Task Force presented a major proposal  to the  school board’s Instruction Committee  in 1996. That year I wrote a summary (shown below) of the task force recommendations. There have been some slight changes in the school hours since that time. All figures are based on the schedules in 1996.

Time and Learning Task Force Proposes Plan to Give Elementary School Students a Full Day on Mondays 

Since the early 1970’s, Fairfax County elementary school students have been dismissed 2 or 2 and 1/2 hours early on Mondays so that teachers would have a block of time for planning and meetings. There have been various proposals over the past nine years to keep the students in school on Monday afternoons while making other provisions for planning time for teachers.

“If American students are to meet world-class standards all children will need more academic time.”  –The National Education Commission  on Time and Learning, 1994.

The most recent proposal was presented to the Fairfax County School Board’s Instruction Committee on May 2, 1996, by the Time and Learning Task Force. The Task Force proposed that each elementary school should be given the option of voluntarily choosing whether to provide a full-day on Monday for students and additional resource teachers for the school. Each school would design its own collaborative decision-making process to ensure broad school and community agreement.

According to the Task Force, “Some schools may want to follow the process used by high schools to decide on block scheduling in which: a) a committee investigates models; b) the committee makes recommendations to parents and faculty; c) parents vote; and d) faculty votes.”

A school which decided to provide the additional time for the students would then decide which types of resource teachers to hire. With a uniform 6.5-hour day Monday through Friday, students would gain a total of 2.5 weeks of additional instructional time per year.

Elementary School Weekly Schedules

Comparison of current schedules to proposed changes recommended by the Time and Learning Task Force

Student activities  Grades 1 – 6

Current time

Proposed total time

Proposed change

Subjects taught by classroom teacher 25 hours/week 25 hours/week none
Instruction by PE and music teachers

2. 5 hours/week

2 hours/week

-0.5 hour/week

Instruction by an art teacher

.5 hour/week[1]

1 hour/week

+.5 hour/week

Additional resource teachers identified by school (e.g., reading, math, computer, science, foreign language, health, music, PE.)


2 hours/week

+2 hours/week

Subtotal of instructional time 28 hours/week 30 hours/week +2 hours/week
Lunch 2.5 hours/week 2.5 hours/week none
TOTAL student time in school 30.5 hours/week 32.5 hours/week +2 hours/week

 The total time mandated for music, art, and PE instruction each week by specialists is the same under the proposal as it is under the current schedule: 3 hours.

  • Music—minimum of two 30-minute sessions each week, for a total of 60 minutes.
  • PE—minimum of two 30-minute sessions each week, for a total of 60 minutes.
  • Art—minimum of one 60-minute session each week. This is an objective the School Board has been working towards even without any increase in time for students.

Under the Task Force proposal, the additional time for instruction by specialists to be chosen by each school is 2 hours. The school could choose resource teachers for reading, math, science, a foreign language, computers, health, or other subjects. The school would have the option of choosing to have additional instruction above the mandated amounts for music, PE, or art.

The Task Force said that schools should choose measures to reduce fragmentation in the student schedule. For example, language arts instruction by the special education teacher could be scheduled during the time the classroom teacher is covering this subject.

Kindergarten student activities

Current time

Proposed total time

Proposed change

Subjects taught by classroom teacher and/or aide 15.00 hours/week 13.75 hours/week -1.25 hours/week
Instruction by PE and music teachers none 1 hour/week +1 hour/week
Instruction by an art teacher  0.25 hours/week)  0.5 hours/week  +0.25 hours/week
Instruction by other resource teachers none 1 hour/week +1 hour/week
TOTAL instructional time 15.25 hours/week 16.25 hours/week +1 hour/week

Under the Task Force proposal, kindergarten teachers and specialists would be guaranteed five hours of weekly planning time.

Teacher planning time

Grades 1 – 6


Proposed total

Proposed change


Planning time during student day 2.5 hours/week 5 hours/week +2.5 hours/week
     music and PE teachers

2.5 hours/week

2 hours/week

-0.5 hour/week

     art teachers


1 hour/week

+1 hour/week

     additional resource teachers


2 hours/week

+ 2 hours/week

Planning time before and after the student day (including Monday afternoon) 7 hours/week 5 hours/week -2 hours/week
TOTAL planning time 9.5 hours/week 10 hours/week

+0.5 hour/week

Under the Time and Learning Task Force proposal, each participating school must provide a minimum of five hours of planning time per week within the student day for every full-time teacher, with a minimum of two of the five hours provided for grade-level or team planning.

Schools would need to develop alternatives for a school-based staff development delivery system other than designated Mondays.

The total yearly amount of teacher planning time under the Task Force proposal would increase to a total of 180 hours. Even if every Monday afternoon under the current schedule were used for planning, the total yearly planning time would be 162 hours. However, at least seven Mondays are holidays or workdays, so a total of 14 hours of planning time is lost. Also, at least five Mondays are used for a variety of reasons (area meetings, central meetings, non-school-based in-service activities, and subject area meetings). Therefore, the total planning time minus holidays and other activities is currently 138 hours per year.


The Task Force recommends that the decision whether to implement a 6.5 hour uniform elementary school day be voluntary on the part of the individual schools, so it is not yet known how many schools will demonstrate an interest in this change. Therefore, costs can only be estimated at this time.

If all 134 elementary schools chose to adopt the 6.5 hour uniform day, total implementation costs could be in the range of $11,000,000 to $13,000,000 per year.

After School Programs

The Task Force recommends support of the extended day program implemented in February 1996 by the Hunters Woods Arts and Science Magnet School. There are four components: academic, technology, recreation, and community service.

Hours are from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Monday. A site director, one teacher, and a teacher’s assistant are needed. Approximately 50 tuition-paying students are needed to sustain this program. It is projected that about 10 additional students may be accommodated with tuition waivers for every 50 students.

We thank Task Force member Ed Grady and Chairman Maryanne Roesch for providing information for the tables in this article.

[1] The art teacher visits each class approximately every other week for one hour under the current schedule.

[2] The current model for art instruction is that the classroom teacher stays in the class with the art teacher. (However, in some schools, the art specialist time is used as planning time for the classroom teacher.)

School’s recess future in question

Elimination of recess monitors will cut recess from 20 minutes to 10 minutes in Norwood-Norfolk Elementary School.

Four part-time recess monitors, at a total cost of $25,000, were cut in the budget passed last month by voters in an upstate New York school district. Currently recess takes place in the final 20 minutes of each 40-minute lunch period.  Next year there will be 10 minutes of recess in each 40-minute lunch period. “The district’s Teacher aides and high school work study students will will fill gaps left by the cuts,” according to Brian Hayden, WatertownDailyTimes.com.

Anne Arundel Board of Education adopts operating, capital budgets

“To offset the drop in its operating budget, the school board approved such measures as cutting $1.27 million in health care funding and $1 million in textbook funding. It increased secondary summer school and evening high school fees by $100 each and reduced funding for elementary school lunches and recess monitors.”

By Joe Burris, The Baltimore Sun:  Anne Arundel Board of Education adopts operating, capital budgets.

A call for Guam to extend school day and add physical education classes

An editorial in  Guampdn.com calls for a longer school day to make time for physical education classes.

“Overweight children are at risk for diabetes and a number of other health problems, which only gets worse as unhealthy children become unhealthy adults,” the editorial stated. “One of the primary reasons for this troubling trend is that fewer of our kids are getting regular exercise, and a large part of this problem is the erosion of physical education programs in our public schools.”

Source: http://bit.ly/ltoyJy