Concern for program voiced

Residents have mixed feelings for Late Start proposal

— Transportation and community involvement were the forefront issues among concerned parents and citizens who attended a second community forum to discuss the Steamboat Springs School District's Late Start proposal.

While administrators reached out to inform the community of their proposal to start every Steamboat Springs public school at 9:40 a.m. one day a week, many parents voiced concern over logistics but were in support of giving teachers more planning time.

"We need to support these teachers any way we can," said Marci Valicenti, mother of two Strawberry Park Elementary students. "It's our children. It's their education."

However, bus drivers present at the meeting expressed the importance of children's safety and how Late Start could affect that issue.

"My main concern is the kids total," said Marj Kelton, director of transportation for the school district. "There are kids' parents who may not be able to bring (students) to school."

Other bus drivers said many kids are left home alone as it is, and now the buses will need to run late and many low-income families will be severely impacted.

"What needs to run as a headline (in the newspaper) is that buses will run one hour later. That will get some opposition," bus driver Clair Erickson said. "We're going to add another impact on (low-income) families' lives."

"Those are the people that really need the help," Jean Cooper, bus driver for over 20 years, said of low-income families. "You're saying, 'We don't want you here until later.' That makes no sense."

As parent and citizen discussion grew, Tim Bishop, middle school assistant principal, said the school he came from didn't have school every Monday. Because it was so ingrained in the system, parents actually enjoyed the consistency, he said.

The Late Start proposal calls for every public Steamboat school to start early so teachers of every grade can identify teaching techniques, increase teaching skills to meet the needs of raised-content standards and implement different learning styles among other things.

Student achievement has been the forefront issue for teaching staff and administrators who have developed the proposed plan since last fall. Judy Harris, director of content standards for the school district, said the objective is not to teach the Colorado Student Assessment Program, but to target the areas within CSAP to raise the level of achievement.

"We're not doing this to make teachers' lives easier," Harris said.

A Steamboat Springs teacher's working contract is from 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., and most teachers work until at least 5 or 6 p.m., said Lora McGinn, a first-grade Strawberry Park teacher.

"I never have time to reflect with our teachers," McGinn said.

Parent ideas included gathering local businesses and community members to volunteer time to spend with children that may be stuck at home alone or embarking on a phone survey to educate every parent on the Late Start proposal.

"This is a way we can tell our community, 'We value our kids,'" said Judy Strnad, mother of a first-grader at Strawberry Park.

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