School days could get longer

Teachers in La Cañada Unified could receive four pupil-free days next year for professional development and collaboration next year if the school board approves a recommendation that first appeared on its agenda Tuesday. A final decision is expected May 31.

The recommendation for providing teachers with four pupil-free days came out of negotiations between the district and La Cañada Teacher’s Association. Both parties agreed to increasing the length of the school day in the district by a few minutes to account for the missed instructional time created by the pupil-free days.

“I think [the pupil-free days] are something that will be extremely advantageous for our instructional programming. The extra instructional time will make up for those four days,” said Wendy Sinnette, the assistant superintendent of human resources who is poised to become superintendent at the end of this school year.

The four pupil-free days will “allow teachers to get on the same page, calibrate instruction and make sure positive things are happening across the board,” Sinnette said.

School board member Joel Peterson said he didn’t think adding two extra minutes to a class would make up for the four days of continuous instruction students are losing in the long run.

According to the recommendation, the slight increase would give next year’s La Cañada High School students more instructional minutes than this year, totaling approximately 3.9 more hours over the course of the school year.

“We’re saying [that] adding two minutes to classes makes up for it, but that does not make up for it,” said Peterson, calling the move misleading.

Susan Boyd, school board president, said it’s the only way to give the pupil-free days within the current contract.

“It’s just a way for us to be able to come up with the additional days that we need,” Boyd said.

Ron Dietel, a former La Cañada school board member and the assistant director for research, use and communications at the UCLA Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing, addressed the board during Tuesday’s meeting and suggested developing a written plan for what will be accomplished from the pupil-free days.

Dietel said he is concerned about the costs that would be associated with essentially creating four more work days for teachers, although the recommendation given the school board states there is no financial implication.

“With people working four more days, there must be some additional costs involved,” Dietel said.

Sinnette said the district has already been “brainstorming” on a plan for the pupil-free days and will look into Dietel’s concerns.

If approved, days at LCHS 7-12 would begin at 7:50 a.m. and end at 2:47 p.m. At the elementary campuses, the morning kindergarten classes would being at 8:10 a.m. and end at 11:35 a.m. The afternoon kindergarten day would start at 11:35 a.m. and end at 3:05 p.m. For first- through-third grades, the early bird instructional days would begin at 8:10 a.m. and end at 1:55 p.m. while the late bird days would start at 9:10 a.m. and end at 2:55 p.m. In grades four through six, the day would start at 8:10 a.m. and end at 2:55 p.m.

The recommendation will be voted on at the next school board meeting on May 31 at 7 p.m. at the district’s round brick building, located at 4490 Cornishon Ave.

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