GREENCASTLE -- This Monday will be the first Monday of the school year for Greencastle Community Schools students -- which means the first time the schools will observe their new late Monday starts.
The new scheduling comes as a result of changes made by Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, who took office in January 2009.
One of those changes was that schools were no longer allowed to give teachers half-days for professional development.
To make sure Greencastle teachers continue to hone and develop their skills, the district has instituted the inclusion of professional learning communities within the school weeks.
All Greencastle teachers will participate in professional learning time each Monday, and classes will start 35 minutes later than normal.
A notice sent to parents explained that students would "lose only five minutes of instructional time per subject area each week, while the professional learning hours increase by as much as 32 hours per year."
"Professional development has really got to be ongoing," said Dawn Puckett, Greencastle Schools assistant superintendent. "It's not just ISTEP scores you look at when you talk about school improvement. This really gives the teachers a chance to work together collaboratively."
The issue of late Monday starts was first brought up at the March meeting of the Greencastle Community School Corp. Board of Trustees.
"We chose Monday for a variety of reasons," Puckett said. "One is that Mondays are traditionally the day when we have the highest rate of absences."
Puckett said parents expressed concerns after learning of the schedule change.
"We understand this is disruptive, but we really think we should all be able to adjust," she said.
Puckett said most of the concerns she had heard from parents had to do with before school daycare for parents who needed to go to work.
"We have answers," she said.
The school district, which already partners with the YMCA of Clay County to offer an after school program at Ridpath Elementary in Greencastle, will now offer a before school program at Greencastle Middle School. Children can be dropped off as early as 7:15 a.m.
Cost for the program is $2 each Monday, and a sliding scale based on income is available.
The professional development days will not be moved to another day should a holiday fall on a Monday, Puckett said.
At the March meeting, Deer Meadow Primary principal Gwen Morris pointed out that professional learning communities were being used throughout the United States and all over the world.
"Our students who don't have this opportunity are at a real disadvantage," she said.
Daniel TeGrotenhuis, principal of Tzouanakis Intermediate School, said he was in favor or professional learning communities being instituted.
"We've been working on this since last fall," he said. "We've shared our thoughts, tentative ideas and even some plans."
All the schools in the Greencastle district were well over the state requirement for daily instruction -- all the schools had 45 minutes extra except Greencastle Middle School, which had 35 extra minutes each week.