Some parents, teachers oppose adding 15 minutes to the Chesterfield school day

Teachers and parents alike made it clear - they don’t want a longer school day.
Published: Nov. 14, 2023 at 8:46 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 15, 2023 at 6:31 AM EST
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CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WWBT) - During the public comment section at Tuesday night’s Chesterfield School Board meeting, some teachers and parents alike made it clear - they don’t want a longer school day.

“15 minutes isn’t going to enrich our children any further, it’s just going to add stress families, teachers and kids,” said Todd Starkweather, a county high school teacher and the vice president of the Chesterfield Education Association.

He added that, “their day would feel more than 15 minutes longer and possibly limit other opportunities before and after school.”

On the school board’s work session agenda earlier in the day, the school board discussed options to adding time to the school day to increase instructional hours at all schools.

Ross Haynes, a middle school teacher and the secretary for the CEA shared what it’s like right now for students.

“I notice that even when providing multiple breaks throughout the class periods, it’s a large struggle for students to manage to maintain attention on tasks through that entire time, especially as we get later in the day,” Haynes said.

A presentation said that Chesterfield County Public Schools has one of the shortest instructional days in the region.

“The addition of time (such as adding 15 minutes per day) better aligns schools with the state requirements for student instruction,” the presentation said. “This also allows for the school division to not amend the start date or end date on the 2024-2025 approved school calendar.”

The school board’s presentation said 15 extra minutes would increase the approximate 1,050 current instructional hours by 44 hours at all levels while maintaining a 178-day calendar in 2024-25.

The proposal with school start and end times
The proposal with school start and end times(Chesterfield County Public Schools)

However, in public and written comments to the school board, there was little support to be found for extending the school day.

“My children are already up and out the door before sunrise many days of the year,” a parent wrote in public comments to the board. “They frequently report being tired due to the early morning, in spite of an early bedtime.”

Laura Abbott, a board member with the Chesterfield Education Association, says more than 100 people commented on the issue in one day.

“Smaller class sizes would allow us as teachers to individualize instruction for our students,” Abbott said when discussion student learning gaps.

Abbott also said parents were upset that they found out about the proposal on Facebook instead of direction from CCPS.

Concerns for all school employees rose as well. Starkweather reminded the board that teachers are already working overtime, without getting paid extra. He, along with other teachers, said it’s not fair to ask staff to work even longer, for no raise.

“CCPS staff are already working more hours than are required on behalf of our students and we are mentally and physically exhausted,” Starkweather said.

The school board was not scheduled to vote on the issue at Tuesday’s meeting.