West Bloomfield Schools switches from late starts to early release days

West Bloomfield Beacon | Published September 11, 2017

WEST BLOOMFIELD — The West Bloomfield School District is transitioning from using late start days to implementing early release days across all schools in the district. 

The district began using late start days — beginning school an hour later than normal — about 15 years ago, said Arthur Ebert, assistant superintendent of human resources. 

It just wasn’t as effective as the district had hoped, though, said Ebert. 

“The hour late starts provided wasn’t (enough time) to do meaningful work,” he said. “To have time to professionally grow, teachers need more time to get that work done. Early release allows for a larger period of time for staff to collaborate.”

The purpose of starting school late was to give teachers dedicated time for professional development, anything from preparing for the day to collaborating on projects with other teachers and improving their teaching skills. 

“People barely got started on working together. The hour would just fly by,” said Gerald Hill, superintendent of the district. “We determined what our best goals are, and we feel one of the best ways to improve results for students is to have teachers have more time to work together.” 

The district has 12 early release days scheduled for all elementary and middle schools, and 13 for high schools. The goal of transitioning from late start days to early release days is to make teaching and learning more cohesive by giving teachers time to work together and plan collaboratively.

“The real goal is to improve instruction, to improve teaching and learning, and give teachers the opportunity to work together,” said Hill. 

Almost all of the early release days are scheduled for Fridays throughout the year. That way, Hill said, families can take that time to schedule appointments or go on a weekend vacation. 

“We assume teachers are working only when students are there,” said Hill. “It’s important they’re there for students. They need to have time to plan what happens. We want to give teachers those opportunities to improve their teachings. (Early release) embeds a lot of professional development into the school year.”

For elementary and middle school students, parents have the option of enrolling their child in free “half-day hangouts” — workshops held after early release days to provide care for students whose parents can’t pick them up after early release. Half-day hangouts include an array of activities, including yoga and bowling, as well as educational workshops about science, technology, engineering and mathematics topics.

Ebert hopes to see increased learning on students’ part by implementing early releases. 

“The teachers and staff can work together, making plans for groups, classes or individual students,” he said. “They can talk about the social and emotional needs of kids and how to increase supports for kids. There are lots of things teachers need to be supportive in to be more effective in their jobs.”

The first early release day during the 2017-18 school year will be Friday, Sept. 15. For a full schedule of early release dates and times, visit www.wbsd.org.