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SELLERSBURG — West Clark Community Schools will dismiss students 45-minutes early on Wednesdays next school year.

All of the district’s schools will be released earlier on those days so contractual time for certified staff can be focused on “meaningful and direct” Professional Learning Community [PLC] planning, discussion and teaching strategies, WCCS superintendent Clemen Perez-Lloyd told the News and Tribune.

In a news release regarding the change, school officials say that having the restructured schedule in place will assist with each school in the district in reaching its “highest potential, meeting school improvement plan goals and assisting with accreditation requirements.”

During the 2019-2020 school year, after-school transportation will still run on the early-release Wednesdays, just 45 minutes earlier than the rest of the week.

For Prosser students, the Silver Creek High School bus will leave Prosser at approximately 1:25 p.m. on Wednesdays, and the Borden High School and Henryville High School buses will leave around 1:40 p.m. on those early-dismal days.

Students schedules will not be altered on Wednesdays. The last 45 minutes of the day for all schools on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday will encompass a remediation/enhancement block customized for each school’s needs.

This remediation/enhancement block will not exist on Wednesday afternoons. The only possible alteration will be the shortening of certain periods at the secondary level.

Start times and lunch schedules will remain the same, and classified staff schedules/time will not be cut short on Wednesdays either. Additionally, latch-key programming will still be available at certain schools.

When there is a two-hour delay on Wednesdays, students will remain at school until their normal Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday release time so the instructional day is maximized.

The schedule adjustment is the next natural step for the school system. “This is our fourth year doing PLCs. Our challenge has been to find a consistent time to allow teachers to work in organized teams,” she said.

The once-a-week early dismissals will solve that problem and “provide the time to work on the PLC principles to allow us to sustain the PLC model until it becomes the school’s culture,” she said.

PLCs have become a district expectation, the superintendent says, because “it is a research-based strategy to increase student achievement and also promotes teacher effectiveness.”

Perez-Lloyd said the Indiana Department of Education promotes and encourages all districts to use the PLC model. “IDOE has a yearly conference dedicated to PLCs to offer corporations the necessary training for implementation,” she said.

Adam Baker, press secretary for state superintendent of public instruction Dr. Jennifer McCormick, confirmed the IDOE does encourage PLCs. However, the state does not dictate how school systems approach professional development.

He said West Clark's choice to dismiss early one day a week has been done in other school districts around the state. Other districts choose to start the school day later or work in professional development in other ways. Baker said systems can be creative in how they approach PLCs.

Greater Clark Community Schools has "Period 0 for teachers prior to the student instructional day, which are professional development opportunities directed by the district and/or building principal and used for grade level or content collaboration," said Erin Bojorquez, public information officer with GCCS.

She said the school system has not discussed rearranging the school day.

Clarksville Community Schools will approach professional development in yet another way next year.

The school board recently approved the 2019-20 school calendar, which includes two, two-hour early release days for students so teachers may have professional development built into their workday.

In addition, a day that has in past years been dedicated to parent-teacher conferences will be used for professional development at the middle school, high school and Renaissance Academy. Clarksville Elementary School will continue to hold parent-teacher conferences.

“We are always looking for ways to help our staff better themselves professionally and, by extension, better serve our students,” superintendent Tina Bennett said. “We are looking forward to evaluating the effectiveness and benefits of these days when it comes to our staff and the entire school community and make adjustments as needed.”

Perez-Lloyd feels confident WCCS’s approach works for her district and it will succeed thanks to the dedication of their educators.

The superintendent said positive results from PLC is achieved through “hard work and commitment” and the focus is on learning rather than teaching.

“The success of the PLC concept depends not on the merits of the concept itself, but on the most important element in the improvement of any school — the commitment and persistence of the educators within it,” she said.