ELKINS - An elementary school principal asked the Randolph County Board of Education Wednesday to consider a schedule change that would bring her students to school one hour and 10 minutes earlier every day.
North Elementary School Principal Cynthia Bodkin proposed changing her school's master schedule, having students arrive around 7 a.m. and begin instruction at 7:15 a.m., with classes ending at 2:50 p.m. each school day. Traditionally, North School students begin instruction at 8:25 a.m., while classes end at 3:35 p.m.
Information presented during Wednesday's Randolph BOE meeting estimates, under the proposal, buses would pick up students - including 5-year-old kindergarteners - as early as 6:10 a.m. and have them home by 3:50 p.m. at the latest drop-off.
"We wanted to know what we need to do at North to make it better," Bodkin said. "When RESA (Regional Education Service Agency) representatives came, they said we needed to look at our schedule. That is what started this proposal."
RESA visited North School after it was designated a support school by the state, the second-lowest designation regarding educational progress. RESA officials said North School could improve by providing additional instructional time during the school day, Bodkin said.
"We cannot start our instructional day until every student is in the building," Bodkin said. "With our current schedule, we dismiss at 3:35 p.m., and get no accrued minutes at all. In the proposed schedule, instruction begins at 7:15 a.m. and ends at 2:50 p.m. We would accrue 25 minutes of instructional minutes per day."
Bodkin said she has met with her staff about the proposal, and with Superintendent of Schools Terry George, Assistant Superintendent Pam Hewitt and other county school officials.
Bodkin said she has informally talked to some parents of bus students.
"I met with the bus drivers right before school ended," Bodkin said. "We have discussed a lot of the issues. A parent letter went out to all parents because I just want them to know that this is a proposal. Nothing has been definite. We just want to see if we can get more instructional time for our kids."
Bodkin said she talked with the local daycares to make sure they can adjust their schedules for North Elementary students.
"With this proposal, our kids can be home in the winter before dark," Bodkin said. "The advantages of this are that elementary and secondary students will be on the same bus, we will have more instructional time with the students, we will have more flexibility in schedules, we will have less down time and it allows for a later pick-up time for secondary students. The disadvantages include elementary and secondary students on the same bus and it is an early pick-up time for students."
Bodkin pointed out that, under the proposal, all students from kindergarten to 12th grade will ride the same bus at the same time, as opposed to buses making two runs in the morning and two in the evening.
"Surrounding schools from Elkins have secondary students on the buses (with elementary students)," board member Harvey Taylor said. "We talked about this at our Local School Improvement Committee meetings. Every time we went, I wrote it down and I talked to everybody. Our students eat breakfast. Two and a half hours after, they are eating lunch. They arrive so late to school. I would like to see kids eating breakfast earlier."
Taylor noted, however, that some parents would be upset with their kids getting up so early.
"If you get away from Elkins, kids get up at 5 a.m.," Taylor said.
Bodkin said all bus drivers serving North Elementary are on board with the proposal. She presented the BOE with a document signed by the drivers.
George said he has already asked Bodkin to meet with the parents and community before a formal presentation was made to the school's LSIC.
"It is imperative to get the feedback from the community and parents before a proposal comes back to the board," George said.
George, Bodkin and other school officials will meet with North Elementary School parents at 6 p.m. Monday at the school, allowing parents to voice their opinions about the proposed change in schedule.
School officials would then meet with North Elementary's LSIC, which would then make a recommendation on the proposed schedule change to the BOE. Board members would have to vote to approve any change.
George noted the Randolph BOE hopes to eventually change all the county schools' buses to making just one run per morning and evening, "for obvious reasons."
Hewitt said the retirees had a combined total of 957 years of service.
"Tonight it is bittersweet," Hewitt said. "It will be a tremendous loss to our school system. First of all, we want to say thank you for everything you have done for the students of Randolph County. You have done a tremendous job, been excellent employees and you will be missed."
Hewitt said the Central Office staff, administration and board members wished retirees the very best.
Retirees include Ted Williams, Stan Shray, Diane Hull, Barbara Giles, Teresa Miller, Fran McLaughlin, Patty Gow, Mary Fitzpatrick, Marilyn Smith, Lewis Summerfield, Stephen Lee, Pat Horne, Andrew Whitfield, Donna Isner, Barbara Baxa, Joyce Hutton, Doug Williams, Billie Bonnett, Kenny Weese, Tammy Swecker, Jill Fanning, Chris Taylor, Sandy Ketterman, Patsy Roberts, Lynne Serba, Kay Hart, Rebecca Whiteman, Jane Corley, Beverly Hammonds, David Fincham, Debbie Fincham and Diane Betler.
Board members also recognized Joseph Arbogast, Brandon Simmons and April Senic for participating in and completing the Transition to Teaching Project.
Outgoing BOE members Ed Tyre and David Kesling were also recognized for their service. Tyre served on the board for 20 years and Kesling served four years.
"I would like to thank Ed for his experience and guidance," Board President Lisa Wamsley said. "I don't know if people realize this or not, but Ed has always given back to the students of Randolph County. He has supported the teachers, he has supported service personnel and staff, and he donates his (Board of Education) salary back (to the school system) because he wants to see kids be successful."
The next Randolph County Board of Education meeting is slated for 6 p.m. July 7.