Mountain View Voice

News - June 18, 2010

Fixing the bells

MV Whisman aims for better school schedule this fall

by Nick Veronin

Starting this fall, school bells will ring in concert at all of the elementary schools in the Mountain View Whisman School District. The new, uniform bell schedule should save money, and fix a hectic transportation situation that often leaves children unsupervised while they wait for their parents or the bus, district officials said.

Another benefit: all K-5 students will receive the same amount of instructional time in the classroom.

Craig Goldman, the district's chief financial officer, said tightening up programming schedules across all the Mountain View elementary schools has been a goal of the district since it was created in 2001 out of the then-separate Mountain View and Whisman school districts. When the districts merged nine years ago, the existing bell schedules were not modified, resulting in the issues that the new bell schedule aims to fix.

"We were concerned with students not having adequate supervision after school," Goldman said.

Goldman is taking over as superintendent of the district next month.

In the current system, children in the grades 1-3 are dismissed 20 to 25 minutes before fourth- and fifth-graders. As it now stands, parents with children in different grades have to make multiple trips to the same school every day, leave younger children unattended until their older siblings are let out, or remain on campus during the gap in dismissal times.

The new bell schedule will reduce first- through fifth-grade end-of-day dismissal gaps to 5 minutes at all MVWSD elementary schools. New start and end times will allow fewer buses to transport the same number of students. Next year, two buses — down from three this year — will shuttle about 400 to and from school each day.

The extra driver will be used to operate a bus on special education routes, saving the district money on the pricy outside contractors it has previously used for special education buses.

"While transportation is a key component of the plan, it's not the driving force behind the change. The two driving forces are student safety and consistent programming," " Goldman said.

By assuring that kids don't have much idle time before heading home from school, he hopes to increase student safety, while simultaneously saving money on after school supervision.

The new bell schedule will also provide more uniformity to the district as a whole, ensuring that each school will offer the same ratio of instruction to recreation.

Next year all schools in the district will begin between 8 a.m. and 8:35 a.m. for kindergarten through fifth-grade students. With the exception of Thursdays and minimum days, kindergartner dismissal times will fall between 1:30 p.m. and 2:05 p.m.; first-, second- and third-graders will be let out between 2:35 p.m. and 3:10 p.m.; and fourth- and fifth-graders will be released between 2:40 p.m. and 3:15 p.m.

"Every solution brings its own problems," Goldman said, acknowledging that the new schedule may not please everyone. "But overall, we think the alignment of the programs across the district will meet the safety, programatic, and fiscal needs of the district and its students."

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