By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — In an effort to cut $300,000 from the Davenport Community School District budget, the school day will begin earlier at three Catholic elementary schools in the city. All Saints, John F. Kennedy and St. Paul the Apostle Catholic schools will be impacted, along with Trinity Lutheran School in Davenport. Assumption High School has decided not to follow the suggested schedule.
The savings will come from bus route changes, said Andy Craig, president of Assumption High School. He worked on behalf of the five non-public schools to resolve the issue. Craig and Lee Morrison, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, were notified at the end of March of proposed changes to bus schedules. Initially, the school district proposed a later start time. The private schools requested an earlier start time, which was approved. Changing school start times was estimated to save the public school district $300,000 by eliminating five buses from the routes.
JFK will have the earliest start time at 7:25 a.m. Principal Chad Steimle said the school day will begin 20 minutes earlier this fall than the school year just completed. “Probably one of the biggest changes will be to our supervision of students before school begins. We used to operate a before-school care program from 7 a.m. until 15 minutes before bell time for an additional charge for families.” JFK will drop that fee, but “we will have to find a way to supervise students that early. We are also considering offering a breakfast program at JFK, but need to determine the logistics to determine its feasibility.”
The after-school childcare program will continue, but start 20 minutes earlier. “We certainly understand the financial situation in which the Davenport Community School District finds itself. Declining enrollment and funding lead to some very tough decisions that have to take place, and I don’t envy their position,” Steimle said. “We appreciate that the DCSD administration and board considered the impact their decisions have on the students and their taxpaying parents who have a legal right to transportation to the faith-based schools in Davenport.”
St. Paul the Apostle Principal Julie Delaney said that school will begin classes at 20 minutes earlier, at 7:45 a.m. “The main change we will make is shifting our schedule to meet the new start and end times. It is very manageable and will not be difficult.”
The school’s before and aftercare program operates from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. “This program will not need to change to accommodate our new bell times. I can foresee fewer parents needing before care due to the earlier start time. Parents who need to be at work by 8 a.m. will have an easier time dropping children off and getting to work.”
After care, which also will start 20 minutes earlier, may see some increased usage, Delaney said. With the earlier dismissal, practices for various programs can begin earlier. So, overall, the new schedule won’t adversely affect sports or clubs. “St. Paul’s ended up with a minor change that was within a reasonable time frame. For us it ended up being a best-case scenario.”
All Saints Principal Jeanne VonFeldt said school will begin 20 minutes earlier, at 7:40 a.m. “We will begin serving breakfast at 7 a.m. instead of 7:15 a.m., so that is a change. Our middle school students have an earlier time now to get help from their teachers.” After-school supervision will continue as usual. Clubs will begin immediately after school. A sports schedule is in the works.
“I know change is not easy but we will work through this together,” Von Feldt said. “All Saints has appreciated all the time and effort that both Catholic school and public school administrators have done in working with the starting bell time proposal. We appreciate the working relationship we have with each other.”
Assumption High School will continue its regular school day, beginning at 7:45 a.m. and ending at 2:50 p.m. Principal Bridget Murphy said that is the best decision in seeking a “delicate balance between utilizing prime educational hours, promoting healthy sleep habits, high class attendance rates, and encouraging student extracurricular involvement.”
Students who utilize the Davenport bus service may experience slightly earlier morning pick-up times but the school cafeteria will be available for study time. Breakfast will continue to be served. Afternoon transportation will be coordinated on a case-by-case basis for Assumption students who need bus transportation in the afternoon. Solutions for those students may include adjustment of the end-of-day academic schedule (eighth-period study hall) or transporting those living in Davenport via Assumption bus following school dismissal.
Morrison is grateful for the compromise. The cost for Catholic schools to provide their own bus transportation isn’t feasible, he said. “This is a compromise, and not a drastic change. We are blessed to be able to work with the school district together.”