As early as January 2016, Charlottesville High School students might find themselves with a new class schedule that includes one delayed opening per month.
According to Jill Dahl, Charlottesville High’s principal, the monthly late start — which would come at no additional cost — will afford teachers time to meet for targeted professional development.
“Professional learning communities have been a valuable tool in all the city schools, allowing teachers to learn from one another and to share ideas and insights,” Dahl said. “It also benefits students as teachers share best practices, align the curriculum and create consistency for students as they progress through a subject year by year.”
A tool used by both Charlottesville City Schools and Albemarle County Public Schools, professional learning communities group teachers by subject area in an attempt to create environments where teachers can share effective strategies with each other to improve both instructional practices and student learning.
As proposed, CHS would open late on the second Thursday of each month starting January 2016. On those days, teachers would meet in the PLCs from 8:30 a.m. to 9:45 a.m., and classes would resume at 10 a.m.
The move would consume 77 minutes of seat time, but the division is already 4½ hours above the required amount of seat time required by the state.
The dates that staff proposed for late starts include Jan. 14, Feb. 12, Mar. 10, April 14 and May 12.
In a survey, 87 percent of Charlottesville High staff who responded supported the delayed opening.
If implemented, Charlottesville would not be alone in using a delayed start. Winchester Public Schools opens two hours late once a month, save for November, December, March and June. Henrico County Public Schools utilizes either a monthly half-day or full day of staff development in all school months except August, December and May.
Dahl said the school’s rich course offerings makes scheduling difficult, which leaves many teachers to stay late or to come in early to meet with other teachers.
“Right now a lot of teachers are meeting outside of their contractual time,” Dahl said. “I think the best thing we can do to support our teachers is respect them as professionals.”
But School Board member Jennifer McKeever said that while she supports the PLC idea, she wouldn’t support the initiative that takes away from instructional time. What’s more, McKeever said she would rather support a budget amendment that would pay the teachers to be at school later to meet with the PLCs.
Dahl said many teachers are coaches or parents and extending their days further would be challenging.
Additionally, both McKeever and School Board member Willa Neale asked why the high school offers such a wide variety of elective courses when it can’t build planning time into each day.
School Board member Juandiego Wade praised the effort.
“The teachers are professionals, and in my mind 87 percent of them got together and decided that this is something that would help them do their jobs,” Wade said. “I think we’ll be getting a lot of bang for the buck during that time that they’re able to get together.”
School Board member Ned Michie supported the concept, but wondered if the change would disrupt transportation schedules or families.
“For the students and parents, this is a change for them too, so while it’s all good from a school end … if we do this, we certainly need to give parents plenty of notice,” Michie said.
Dahl said it would not interfere with the elementary bus schedule.
The School Board will revisit the item Dec. 3.