The Pleasanton school district is looking back to move ahead, re-instituting a policy of staggered starting times that it had in place 16 years ago.
Meanwhile, parents are upset with what they say was little warning about the change in the schedule for kids in first through third grades next year.
Parents on Pleasanton Weekly's online Town Square forum have accused the district of slashing instructional time for students in secret, and arbitrarily eliminating a month and a half of instruction time.
But it's no secret -- the board has had discussions at its meetings for weeks -- and it's not even new.
People who've lived in Pleasanton since the 1990s may be familiar with the district's early- and late-bird programs designed to give young readers a boost. Cindy Galbo, assistant superintendent of educational services, said the new plan would bring back a modified version of that plan, cutting the school day for students in first, second and third grades by 45 minutes a day.
The tradeoff is smaller classes, Galbo said.
"The purpose behind this is that we will have a class of 15 as opposed to 30 for reading instruction," she said.
The students will all have the same amount of classroom time, with some starting earlier and leaving earlier, others arriving later and leaving later. The teachers' hours will remain the same.
Galbo explained that when class sizes were reduced in the late 1990s, the district dropped staggered reading but added time in school.
"The state requirement for instructional minutes for grades one through three is 50,400 minutes (per student) for each grade. This will give us, with this reduction, 50,515 minutes," she said. "We're still ahead. We're over the minimum requirement for the year by 115 minutes."
Since eliminating staggered reading, those students were above state minimums by nearly 6,000 minutes with a total of 56,030 minutes per year, she added.
"It's four days a week. It'll be Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. We'll continue with the same late start Wednesday program that we already have," Galbo said.
Many parents have said they were surprised by the notification at the end of the school year. Galbo said the hope was to get the information out quickly so parents could make arrangements over the summer and not at the beginning of the school year.
"We wanted to give parents as much notice as we could," Galbo said. "We're working with daycare providers for additional support, the way we had it 16 years ago."
Like much of what occurs in districts across California, Galbo said part of the issue is state funding.
"It's all connected to decisions that were made (by the school board) on June 5," she said. "One of the cuts was to reduce the P.E. section. If we had reduced that section, we would not have had enough minutes of instruction. The other piece was we didn't know what would happen with class-size reduction. We didn't know we were going to be able to have a staggered schedule until the board made its decision on June 5."
While it may look like the old early- and late-bird schedule, Galbo said there's one important difference: There's no stigma attached to being in one group or the other.
"We are going to have a variety of instructional levels at all times of the day. What if you put a student in a group and they do better? If somebody needs to be moved to a higher group or if somebody needs more intensive instruction, we don't have to change their times," she said.