A few months ago, I heard rumblings about Indianapolis Public Schools proposing new hours for elementary school students beginning in the 2018-19 academic year. The premise was that recent studies have shown how middle and high school students perform better in school when they have a later start time. In order to accommodate the transportation needs of a later start time for these students, IPS would need to move up start times for elementary students. The new proposal would have school start at 8:00am and dismiss at 2:35pm.
This proposal was just recently announced and is now set work through a series of Community Input Meetings to allow the public to have a voice in how the changes would affect families, children, and organizations. Unfortunately, IPS has chosen to host these meetings in a manner that only allows public input to be heard from a selected few. The Community Input Meetings will be held February 26-March 1 at 6pm at various locations around the city. If you work at 6pm or have other evening obligations, you will not be able to attend. No alternative meetings or times have been added to the schedule. I followed up with the IPS Public Relations department and was informed that an online survey would be made available for those who could not attend the meetings. IPS chose to omit the information about the online survey from press releases and advertisements that have gone out.
From the perspective of an afterschool program that serves children in a low-income community (and will soon be serving teenagers), let me give you three reasons why this proposal is concerning:
1. An earlier dismissal time for elementary students places an additional burden on working parents. Across the state, 68% of Indiana children have both parents in the workforce. This means that many families rely on relatives, friends, or afterschool programs to care for their children when school lets out. Many afterschool programs cost money (Play does not), so you can bet that rates will go up if another hour of programming is added to the schedule. Many low-income families will not be able to afford another hour of afterschool care for their children.
2. An earlier dismissal time places an additional burden on afterschool programs. Most afterschool programs are run by non-profit organizations that rely on grants and donations to sustain programs. An additional hour of programming will increase staffing, building, and program costs across the board. For many programs that rely on volunteers like Brookside Community Play, an additional hour of programming would make our model nearly impossible to execute.
3. A later dismissal time for high school students has the potential to cost families greatly. Many high school students work after school to provide income that helps to support their family. While a later start to the school day sounds appealing, the lost hour of income has the potential to greatly harm a family’s monthly income.
One of my greatest concerns in this whole process is the lack of transparency from IPS. The details of this modified proposal are hidden in a lengthy document that is hard to find on the IPS website. The meeting times are designed to only solicit input from those privileged to not work second shift. Moreover, the online survey has not been publicized on social media posts or press releases. It is clear to me that IPS is not interested in truly hearing from the community. In oppressive situations such as this, it is imperative that our community speaks up and speaks loudly.
How Can You Help?
1. If you’re able to attend one of the remaining Community Input Meetings, I’d encourage you to be a vocal advocate for afterschool programs and our community. Here are the remaining meeting dates and locations (I will be at the 2/28 meeting):
· Tuesday, Feb. 27 at 6pm - St. Paul's Episcopal Church (6050 N. Meridian St.)
· Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 6pm - CAFE Neighborhood Center (8902 E. 38th St.)
· Thursday, March 1 at 6pm - Julia Carson Government Center (300 E Fall Creek Pkwy N Dr.)
2. If you cannot attend a meeting, please take a few minutes and participate in this online survey: http://survey.k12insight.com/survey.aspx?k=SsQQWTUsRXVsPsPsP&lang=0&data=
3. Email the our School Board Commissioner. Our School Board Commissioner is Venita Moore. I’d encourage you to email her how you feel about this proposed change to starte/dismissal times. You can reach her at email@example.com.