It’s official: Classes will begin at 8:30 a.m. for all Denair students in the next school year

When the next school year begins in August, all Denair students will be able to get an extra 30 minutes of sleep. That’s because, as expected, Denair Unified School District trustees agreed Thursday night to start school at 8:30 a.m. on all four campuses. The current start time is 8 a.m.

Denair officials really had no choice. A new state law says high schools cannot begin classes before 8:30 a.m. in an effort to address concerns that teen-agers chronically do not get enough sleep. In Denair’s case – with students at all grade levels sharing bus services on two routes – there was no realistic way to have elementary and middle school children start at one time and older students start at another.

“We’ve been talking about this for quite some time,” said Superintendent Terry Metzger. “We considered input from students, parents, staff, the community and our legal counsel.”

No class time will be lost since the end of the school day also will be pushed back by 30 minutes.

Maintaining the same start time for all campuses means that parents who drive their children to and from school will not be forced to do multiple drop-offs and pick-ups, Metzger said.

In conjunction with the revised schedule, the district will expand its before- and after-school academic options. At the March board meeting, Metzger stressed that the Extended Learning Opportunities Program (ELOP) is not a replacement for child-care services currently available. Rather, she explained, it is an effort to mitigate the ongoing academic issues for students associated with the two-year COVID-19 pandemic. The district expects to receive about $845,000 annually in federal funding for the program.

Possible ELOP services could include tutoring, homework help, reading practice, opportunities for middle and high school students to talk one-on-one with teachers or to work on group projects in the library.

Parents will have to register their children for ELOP. Metzger expects as many as 500 students will participate. The federal money will cover the full cost of the program, including staffing, she said.

“This is not child care,” Metzger stressed. “It is intended to be instructional.”

Later in the meeting, Metzger outlined this year’s summer school plans. Classes will run from June 2-30.

More than 500 students participated in 2021 after missing out on face-to-face class time with teachers because of the COVID pandemic. A similar number of students are expected to enroll in classes this year.

The summer program is divided into three areas – credit recovery for high school students in danger of not graduating, summer enrichment for kindergartners through eighth-graders (and some high school students) and a 20-day program for selected special education students.

The enrichment programs will begin June 6 and feature many of the same weeklong camps with smaller class sizes that blend academic themes with electives that are popular with students. Classes will run from 9 a.m. to noon. Registration will begin in May.

“The purpose of summer enrichment is to re-engage students to learning and to build relationships between students and staff through fun activities,” Metzger explained. “We will continue to focus on social-emotional wellbeing and having fun while still including an academic component.”

In other action Thursday night, trustees:

  • Voted 4-0 (with Trustee Crystal Sousa absent) to spend $7,000 to poll between 250 and 300 registered voters in the district on whether they might support new school bonds to build or upgrade facilities. Caldwell Flores Winters – which developed the district’s facilities master plan – will conduct the poll by phone and email in multiple languages in the coming months. Any bond proposal is unlikely to be on the ballot before 2024.
  • Unanimously approved an adjustment in developer fees to $4.79 per square foot of residential construction and $0.78 per square foot of commercial/industrial construction. The new fees go into effect in 60 days and are in line with what is allowed by the State Allocation Board.
  • Voted in favor of the Denair High Class of 2022 senior trip to Disneyland on May 14-15.
  • Recognized two Denair High coaches – R.J. Henderson in boys basketball and Miguel Hernandez in boys soccer – who were named coaches of the year in the Southern League in their respective sports. Both teams qualified for the Northern California playoffs this season after capturing league and Sac-Joaquin Section championships.
  • Approved resolutions designating May 1-8 as National Teacher Appreciation Week and May 15-21 Week of the Classified Employee.
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