By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — New start times and bus service changes for private schools in the City of Davenport led to a survey being sent to parents last week. Administrators from the Catholic schools of Assumption High School, All Saints Catholic, John F. Kennedy Catholic, St. Paul the Apostle Catholic and Trinity Lutheran school, along with Lee Morrison, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, were to meet June 18 to discuss the next step.
On June 9 the Davenport School Board voted to have most public elementary schools begin school at 7:30 a.m., intermediate schools at 8:45 a.m. and high schools at 8:10 a.m. Nonpublic elementary schools were given a start time of 8:45 a.m. and Assumption, 8:10 a.m. The nonpublic elementary schools rely on public school transportation for many students.
Assumption High School President Andy Craig said private school administrators are focusing on a solution to what has been brought forward. “We are trying to be proactive.”
The number of students riding public school buses for the 2013-14 school year: All Saints — 107; John F. Kennedy — 85 in the morning and 145 in the afternoon; St. Paul the Apostle — about 210; Assumption High — about 15; Trinity Lutheran — 77 in the bus in the morning and 91 in the afternoon.
Craig was charged with designing a separate survey for parents of elementary and high school students regarding school start times and bus service. The survey was emailed to parents June 13 and was due June 17.
The elementary school survey asks parents to mark questions about start times, flexibility with start times, whether the family uses bus service in the morning, afternoon or both, ability/willingness to pay for bus transportation if that option is available, and the need for before-school care. The Assumption survey focused on how students get to school, alternatives for transportation and costs if other bus service was obtained.
The fast turnaround was necessary because administrators were expected to meet June 18 to discuss the responses and see what parents are feeling and where to go from there. Craig said the nonpublic schools didn’t have a lot of time to respond since the Davenport School Board made its decision this month for changes that affect this coming school year.
The nonpublic schools’ group has already looked at how various schools in Iowa and Illinois handle transportation. Craig noted that Regina Catholic Education Center in Iowa City no longer has bus service provided by the public school district.
Davenport’s Catholic schools would lose 10 minutes of instruction time per school day if they were to follow the Davenport public schools’ start and end time.
St. Paul the Apostle Principal Julie Delaney said teaching religion during the school day “requires that we have a longer school day in order to fit in the academic subjects. All of the Catholic schools pride themselves in going above and beyond minimum requirements; this decision causes us to sacrifice our standards.”
Students attend the 8:30 a.m. parish weekday Mass. Father Tony Herold is working with us to make sure students will be able to attend Mass.”
John F. Kennedy Principal Chad Steimle said that school does not have a breakfast program, but does have a before-school program. The school will look into both programs after a final decision is made regarding start times and bus schedules.
“Even prior to the Davenport Community School District board’s decision that delegated nonpublic schools to the latest tier for transportation times, JFK was in the process of evaluating our daily schedule to determine how best to use instructional time to meet the needs of students. This process will continue once we determine our start and end times.
“We appreciate the DCSD’s administration’s understanding of the needs of the nonpublic schools and its recommendation for the earliest start times. While it’s disappointing that the DCSD board voted differently, we will analyze our options and continue to offer excellent Catholic school education in the city of Davenport,” Steimle said.
All Saints Principal Jeanne VonFeldt said, “My concern right now is losing our Mass time which normally is 8:15 am. With the school day starting at 8:45 a.m. this will inhibit our students’ access to weekly Mass. We will have to adjust that.” She also said the loss of 10 minutes of academic time per day is “a huge concern as we want to retain instructional time, not reduce it. We need the extra academic time due to the requirements of our religious curriculum.”
The school opens for before-school care at 6:30 a.m. and serves breakfast. A later start time will make it difficult to have the space or the funds to develop an extensive before-school care program.
VonFeldt said, “We are working together as a Catholic school system and we will make it work! We want what is in the best interest of our school families.”
“I’m confident we will resolve this issue quickly,” Morrison said.