Plum officials consider early school year start
By Karen Zapf
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 5:12 p.m.
Summer break could be a little shorter next year for students and staff in the Plum School District.
Superintendent Timothy Glasspool during a recent education committee meeting proposed an earlier start for the 2014-15 school year.
Classes typically start the last week of August in the Plum School District. Glasspool proposes bumping up the start date to the third week of August.
“I believe students' interest and excitement wanes toward the end of the school year,” Glasspool told school board members.
The superintendent said he thinks an early start would give students multiple advantages.
Glasspool would expect students to achieve more and have an edge when taking state-mandated tests.
“We would front-load the fall and winter,” Glasspool said. “Students would experience more productivity and personal growth. And we would get more instruction days in before the Keystones (Exams), etc.”
The majority of school districts in Pennsylvania begin classes before Labor Day, according to the state Department of Education.
In addition to Plum, other school districts in the eastern suburbs that began classes on Aug. 26 were Franklin Regional and Penn Hills. The last day of classes in the Plum School District for this school year is scheduled for June 5.
The school year started on Aug. 22 in the Penn-Trafford School District.
And the Gateway School District began classes on Sept. 3.
Glasspool said he has had preliminary discussions about a potential earlier start of the 2014-15 school year with the Plum Borough Education Association that represents the district's 268 teachers.
Board member Tom McGough sees benefits to starting classes a week earlier.
“There would be more instruction days prior to student testing,” McGough said. “Interest does wane after Memorial Day.
“The kids are pretty excited in August. They are ready to go back to school.”
McGough, though, wants to see more specifics.
“I want to look at how it would impact seniors and their being recruited to colleges,” McGough said.
Board member Sal Colella said he wants to look at starting classes a week earlier.
And, he said, he wants to lengthen the school year.
“To shrink the achievement gap, we have to look at the amount of teaching time for students,” Colella said. “One hundred eighty days is not enough teaching time.”
Colella advocates tacking on an extra 10 days to the school year.
Board member Loretta White, a retired teacher, also said students need more instruction time.
“I was never finished (teaching during the school year),” White said.
“I told the students they had to come back the next week,” White joked.
Glasspool plans to get more information to the board so that members can make a decision soon.
“We would like to get the word out early (if there is a change) so families can adjust their vacations accordingly,” Glasspool said.
Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8753, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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