Dothan City Schools continue to make big changes – cutting costs, improving efficiency, and helping create an environment for student success and safety.

This past week, one issue that raced to the forefront of conversation: a revised bell schedule that would have elementary students getting out of school at 2:10 and junior high students at 3:50.

Many parents were vocal about the disparity on social media, citing several issues for students riding the bus and carpool parents.

For students riding the bus, parents were worried that their younger children would be dropped off more than an hour and a half before their older children, who would usually keep an eye on their siblings before parents returned home.

Carpooling parents who prefer not to place their kids on the bus were worried about having to pick up children from both the elementary school and junior high to get them home. Going to both schools could be a journey that takes over two hours.

In this scenario, someone might be left out of going to Dairy Queen after school.

While the schedules have been solidified as of Monday night’s meeting, there was discussion about creating after-school and before-school programs to help concerned parents. Superintendent Phyllis Edwards also promised the board that she and the committee would go back to the drawing board and see if they can shave off time to get the dismissal times closer together. Edwards is confident that both will come to fruition.

However, since the schedule is already approved, parents must sit on their hands hoping the promises will come to pass. It seems curious that the times would be approved prematurely without approval of the theorized programs that are liable for the schedule’s success for countless parents. Hopefully, the team at Central Office will come through for them.

Bus rider perspective

Riding a bus most of my childhood was the blight of my young(er) life. The only consistent token of my experience riding a bus was the inconsistency of pick up and drop off times. Sometimes, I’d be waiting 30 minutes in the freezing cold for the bus to arrive or an hour after school. Then, it would take 30 minutes to an hour to be driven to my destination, although my sister and I only lived several minutes from the school.

I remember being an elementary student riding with students twice my age, which created an environment for inappropriate situations. Older students were cursing constantly, making sexually explicit comments, and would make unsuitable gestures and comments to younger students – sometimes harassing or bullying.

Likewise, I remember being a high school-age student riding with kindergarten students with a different school system. There was no separation and bus drivers were helpless to supervise the overcrowded buses. The bus was loud, and a rude awakening to my morning.

The new schedule would eliminate many of these problems, and create a more welcoming atmosphere to students of all ages and should give anxious parents some much-needed relief.

Education legislation

Alabama senators and representatives have been fast introducing bills in congress that could have a heavy impact on the future of education.

Character Education

HB469 would amend an existing bill that requires the teaching of “character education” for all grades K-12. Currently, the bill reads that there must be a comprehensive character education program in all schools that teach patriotism, cheerfulness, respect for the environment, tolerance, self-respect, and school pride, among other tenets. The previous bill instructed the criteria be taught no less than 10 minutes a day every day of the school week.

The amendment requires that the lesson be taught no less than 40 minutes a day, and be broadened to address methods of discouraging bullying and violent acts against fellow students.

The bill was introduced on Thursday by Rep. John Rogers and referred to the committee on Education Policy.

Computer Science

HB216, a bill that would require computer science courses and allocate funding for professional development and certification, has been referred to the House Ways and Means committee. There will be a hearing on April 24.

Pledge of Allegiance

SB258 was passed by the Senate on Thursday after it was amended to include that students would not be penalized or punished for refusal to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. The proposed law would require that the pledge be recited at the beginning of each school day at all K-12 public schools. It is now pending in the House Education Policy committee.

Yoga class

Introduced into the House Tuesday, HB 449 would allow yoga to be taught at public schools. Whereas before, instruction has been specifically prohibited, the proposition would give local boards of education the authority to create and offer a yoga class with specifications.

All instruction would be limited to stretching techniques, posing, and exercises. Poses would be limited to stretching, standing, reclining, sitting, twisting and balancing and shall have only English names and descriptions. Chanting, mandalas, mantras, etc. are prohibited.

School boards

SB8 would increase the minimum population of a city to form a local board of education from 5,000 to 15,000 and require that the city is financially capable. The board would be responsible for building, purchasing, and maintaining any school buildings.

While many surrounding cities operate with a local board of education do not meet the amended population threshold, the bill is not retroactive.

Chalk Talk, an education notebook compiled by education beat reporter Sable Riley, appears each weekend in the Dothan Eagle and at DothanEagle.com

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