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Poll: Abolish East Penn's Early Wednesdays?

Elementary schools in East Penn School District end their day on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Patch wants to know how East Penn parents feel about it.

On Monday, schools in opened for the 2012-2013 school year, and yesterday, East Penn elementary school parents experienced their first Wednesday 1:30 p.m. dismissal – a Wednesday dismissal time that will carry through for the entire school year. 

The rationale for this practice has become the stuff of legend among parents in the district, with the most commonly held belief being that the short school day on Wednesday gives elementary school teachers the much-needed “prep time” that they need to do their jobs.

Also of folklore status is a rumored survey of undetermined age supposedly conducted on East Penn elementary school parents who said they are in favor of an abridged school day on Wednesday. 

For students in PM kindergarten, this unique schedule amounts to one hour of classroom time on Wednesday. For working parents, the 1:30 p.m. dismissal would seem to create a childcare conundrum.

If you are a current parent of an East Penn elementary school student or have children who have aged out of the elementary school classroom in East Penn, Patch wants to hear what you think of the 1:30 p.m. Wednesday dismissal. Take our poll and share your thoughts in the comments below.

Craig Deppe August 30, 2012 at 11:12 AM
I would prefer not to have it. It messes up schedules.
Sue Adams August 30, 2012 at 12:10 PM
So, what is the REAL reason behind the short Wednesdays? Are there any other school disctricts in the area that do this? My kids are cyber schooled and home schooled so it doesn't effect me, but it seems it would be very difficult for working parents!
MS August 30, 2012 at 12:16 PM
It is difficult Sue, in fact, yesterday while at work, I actually got giddy when I realized both kids are now in Middle School and I didn't have to leave work, run home to get someone off the bus and then come back to work....I have been told the teachers use this early dismiss time to work on stuff that would normally use a teacher in service day for.....I would much prefer the teacher in service day!
Tricia Ratushny August 30, 2012 at 12:30 PM
It is extremely difficult for families where there is no one able to be home during the day because the parent(s) work. I have noticed that after-school child care costs in EPSD are higher than other districts because of this. I was always told it was for teacher in-service, yet they schedule how many full in-service days a year? That makes no sense. I know of no other district that does this. And the 1 hour for PM kindergarten has to be one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard of.
MickeyMouse August 30, 2012 at 12:53 PM
I would love to have a full day on wednesday, making arrangements to have somebody there with kids earlier than normal can be difficult at times. Our kids are out of kindergarten now, but PM kindergarten was a real waste of time on wednesdays.
taxed-enough August 30, 2012 at 01:32 PM
This is a result of our East Penn school board having extremely poor negotiating skills. Please don't fall for the fact that this time is needed for prep time. Parkland gives its students a full week of school, and still has their prep time. This is a result of our school board entering into bad contracts with the unions. It is not the fault of the teachers who are wonderful people. It is the cozy relationship between our school board and the union leaders. If our school board demanded a 40 HOUR WORK WEEK, we would not have early dismissal on Wednesdays. However, our board approves contracts for only 37.5 hours per week to earn their salary. This means a 7.5 hour work day. If our school board has good negotiating skills, they could get an 8 HOUR WORK DAY and a 40 HOUR WORK WEEK, and there would be plenty of prep time without weekly early dismissals. There ARE other school boards in Lehigh County that demand a 40 hours work week for their district, but our school board short changes the students at every contract negotiation. Don't let Ballard convince you it would cost two million to stop early dismissals. All it would take is a better contract between the school board and the union leaders. Ballard just stonewalls the subject every time a parent brings it up and he states it would cost two million dollars for extra pay! Why do you think the union contract is NEVER posted online on the school website?
Linda Duell August 30, 2012 at 05:40 PM
I had two boys in East Penn and it was an added expense for my daycare cost, which was costly enough. I'd love to see it go away so parents today can have some extra money and not have to run around so much. AND I'd like an explanation WHY it would cost 2 million dollars to end it??? Teachers are there anyway, school is still open...so, why the cost to do??
H smith August 30, 2012 at 05:46 PM
As a parent in the school district for the first time with an afternoon kindergartener it's confusing. I forgot to meet my daughter's bus yesterday not realizing it was Wednesday so I had to pick her up back at school. Totally my fault, but Im probably not the first parent to make this mistake. Her normal bus ride is almost an hour each way to school. This means she's spending double the time on a bus than in school on Wednesdays. This is a waste, I'd much rather have inservice days
taxed-enough August 30, 2012 at 06:19 PM
This is not about inservice days. It is about the fact that we don't have a 40 hour work week in the union contracts. We only have a 37.5 hour workweek in the union schedules. So, if the teachers work more than 37.5 hours per week, it is like overtime. The contract for extra pay if they work 40 hours per week. So, the prep time is taken out of Wednesdays which could be a full school day. This is since the contract includes a 7.5 hour work day. If we had an 8 hour work day for the union contracts, then that prep time could be spread throughout the week with working an extra 1/2 hour a day. You may be amazed if you read the union contracts, but if the teachers work more than 7.5 hours per day (like 8 hours a day) it is like overtime which they just call "extra pay for extra time" in the contract. So, they would all get extra pay for extra time if the kids stayed all day on Wednesday. That is why Ballard throws around the number of two million dollars. But, in reality, if we fixed the union contract, it would not cost anything to have a full week of school for our students.
Lisa Epting Underwood August 30, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Several years ago, the district sent home a survey regarding the early dismissal on Wednesdays. However, when the district mentioned full days on Wednesday, they also wanted to push back the school day start time. East Penn Elem. schools already start later than most schools - and by getting rid of the early Wednesdays, school was proposed to start AFTER 9:00 AM. Many parents (myself included) replied that the change would be too difficult - simply because many parents have jobs that start at 9:00 - allowing time for kids to get on the bus and then get to work. Why not end school a little earlier each day? But to push back the start of the day to 9:15 or later is silly.
taxed-enough August 30, 2012 at 06:25 PM
These are false choices. The school board is not giving all of the options to the parents. We do not have to start the school day later. Parkland does not start later than us and they have a full week of school for their students from Monday to Friday. This has nothing to do with starting the school day later, but the board likes to confuse parents with that. It all stems from the union contract they they should not have agreed to, which does not call for an 8 hour work day, and a 40 hour work week.
Marty Milne August 30, 2012 at 07:18 PM
I find the poll's language misleading. Although I voted for the removal of early Wednesdays, it is not a "nightmare." It's an inconvenience rather than a nightmare for my family. Thankfully, we have some "wiggle room" in our schedule. Many families do not. I am willing to listen to both families, teachers, and administrators on this issue however. Ultimately, I am more concerned about the education of our children than I am about my own convenience.
careless fills August 30, 2012 at 11:27 PM
typical school administration reaction - give you an unacceptable option to pick against their preferred option. it obviously doesn't have to be that way
Robert Sentner August 30, 2012 at 11:53 PM
not totally on the same subject but can someone explain why the kids are starting 1 week earlier this year and still getting out June 12th like last year ?? and on the subject Wednesday early dismissal is rediculous always has been and always will be.
thesilentmajority August 31, 2012 at 12:39 AM
I believe the last day of school is June 10th. The school year calendar is posted at the district website http://www.eastpenn.k12.pa.us/Public%20Forms/_pubforms/2012-13%20approved%20school%20calendar.pdf
Deb Stevens August 31, 2012 at 01:57 AM
My understanding is they started a week earlier so the school year can end a week earlier than usual. About 2 years ago, the kids were in school until the 22nd or 23rd of June because of snow make up days. ( I remember because my daughter's bday is the 22nd and this was the first time ever she was in school on that day). Most districts in the Valley start the week before Labor Day. My question is: Why a day off tomorrow (Friday before Labor Day)? It's not a holiday. Isn't a 3 day weekend enough? In regards to the earlier dismiss on Wednesdays (although my children are no longer in elementary school)....I would like to know the reason behind it. It was a major inconvenience for my family. Having 2 children with special needs, day care was not an option. Also, If you add up the time, 78 hours of classroom time is lost each school year. That's over 2 weeks of missed school ! I would love to see the school year measured in required hours, not days.
thesilentmajority August 31, 2012 at 03:36 AM
I believe that the scheduled last day of school was June 12th last year. This year the last day of school is scheduled to be June 10th. They may have started a week earlier but they are not ending a week earlier. It appears they only trimmed the end of the school year by two days.
thesilentmajority August 31, 2012 at 05:39 AM
Ms Marangos, I don't believe that the survey East Penn did back in the 2006-2007 school year in regards to the early dismissal Wednesdays was folklore or a rumor. As a parent who had a child at East Penn during that school year, I received and completed one of those surveys. I believe the options presented on the survey for parents were keep the 1:30 Wed. early dismissal as is or opt to eliminate the early dismissal and move the start of school to 9:15am instead of the current 8:55am. I don't believe there was an option to end the 1:30 Wed. and keep the 8:55am start. The only rumor from that survey were the parent results. I don't believe the district ever publicly shared those results with the parents in a general forum such as the school website. I only found out about the results through the board meeting minutes after the fact. In those minutes they revealed teacher results(they weren't for it) but they did not reveal parent results. So the rumored parent results were just to keep it as is because it was believed that most parents(those for or against early dismissal)did not like the 9:15am start that went along with it. The elimination of this practice became a very complicated issue that included increasing staff at a cost of $472,500, changing the middle school starting time, loss of teacher planning time, contractual obligations with the teachers, etc. http://www.eastpennsd.org/School%20Board/_boardminutes/2007/april232007.pdf
CM September 02, 2012 at 09:31 PM
I enjoy and appreciate the early dismissal on Wednesdays just as I did when I was a kid! I don't think it is a bad thing to offer our kids a little more time to be a kid. Many of todays children are up and out the door in early AM hours to be rushed from one place to another over loaded with constant stimulation. Down time is not a bad thing. Play time is not a bad thing. Free time is not a bad thing. Time to play with friends or be physically active instead of sitting at a desk behind a book is not a bad thing. I don't care what other school districts do. East Penn is a leader not a follower.

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