It's 8:08 a.m. at Champlain Elementary School in Burlington and students are heading in to start their day. At the beginning of the school year the school bell here rang at 8:05 a.m., but now it's three minutes later.
Some parents don't care or didn't even notice.
"Teachers and administrations need to find out what works best for them and that's fine with me," said Judd Allen, a parent.
But others can't wrap their minds around why a 3-minute change was necessary.
"I don't really understand it," said Chris Allen, a parent. "It's easier when bells are on 5 or 10 minutes then on 3 or 4 minutes or 8 minutes. I don't know what it means to the teachers or the students."
Champlain's principal sent a notice to parents saying the change comes as a result of the new Burlington teachers' contract. It said: "By having the bell ring at 8:05 we are exceeding the allowable minutes of student contact time."
"Eventually there needs to be a limit. Otherwise there will be principals that say, 'Let's just have kids in school from 7 until 5:00.' And we do need time to do some of these other responsibilities that we have," said Bob Abbey, the president of the Burlington Elementary Education Association.
Abbey says the contract isn't callous. It is standard practice to negotiate the amount of classroom time and prep time teachers have. He says students are in school more now than they were two years ago.
"Evidently there are parents upset by this. We also have parents that now that we're getting close to almost seven academic hours a day that that's enough, especially for a 5-, 6-, 7-, 8-year-old," Abbey said.
Burlington Schools Superintendent Jeanne Collins says the new contract comes while a three-year pilot is in effect to try to balance the time teachers spend with students.
"Teachers do many, many things besides stand in front of kids. It's parent phone calls, it's grading, it's lesson planning, research for the lessons, meetings around student needs. All those things have to happen outside the classroom," Collins said.
Collins says the district start time has always been 8:10 a.m. But both Champlain Elementary and Edmunds Elementary schools began their days at 8:05 a.m. The union alerted officials that that breaches the teacher contracts by 15 minutes a week.
"Over the years it's been bumped up again and again and now, quite frankly, there are student contact limits at elementary, middle and high school levels, so they're up against that now," Abbey said.
A later start that kids don't seem to mind.
Abbey says with the new pilot teachers are having prep meetings for more than 100 hours a year and students are in school about an hour and 40 minutes more a week. He stresses that change is difficult but must happen to better the district academically.
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