Proposed STEAM middle school schedule includes longer school days, late start Wednesdays

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The Lawrence school district’s planned STEAM middle school could have a late start in addition to early dismissal on Wednesdays, longer school days, and other factors differing from the other middle schools.

Liberty Memorial Central Middle School is shifting to focus on STEAM — Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math — in August. Members on a committee planning for the first year of STEAM updated the school board Monday on their progress, including a proposed schedule.

STEAM students could begin school at 8 a.m. and be released at 3:20 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, according to the proposed schedule. School currently starts at 8:15 a.m. and dismisses at 2:56 p.m.

Some board members expressed concerns about a potential late start on Wednesdays. School could begin at 9:45 a.m. and end at 2:30 p.m. Wednesdays, if busing allows, according to the proposal. 

Board President Kelly Jones said that may be difficult for parents and guardians to balance with their work. She also pointed to transportation costs, and although the district doesn’t know how much new busing accommodations would cost, she estimates they will be “significant.”

“The 9:45 start time, if I’m a parent and I have to get my kid to Liberty Memorial, is rough,” Jones said. “It does not strike me as parent-centered. I’m concerned about people’s work being disrupted and how you account for that.”

Wednesday has remained a districtwide early release day, so the schedule could include a late start as opposed to LMCMS’s current 1:53 p.m. dismissal that day. The proposed 2:30 p.m. release time that day would still allow teachers to collaborate with teachers at other schools when meetings often occur during the 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. hour. 

LMCMS science teacher Josh Spradlin said the committee is considering the idea because they have heard from nearby businesses that middle school students can be disruptive after school.

“Some of the feedback that we’ve gotten, from particularly some of our friends downtown, is that during an early release when kids are released, they go downtown,” Spradlin said. “That’s what our LMCMS kids have done for as long as I have been there, and so that can cause some headaches amongst our local business owners and things like that.”

The arrival and dismissal time change adds about 35 minutes to each day, Spradlin said. The calendar builds in approximately 1,160 instructional hours, which is more than the current amount at LMCMS. Presenters said extending the school day offers flexibility to test what works the first year and allows time for the “inquiry block” — a class period at the end of the day for project-based learning or time for students to meet with activity clubs — without content classes being impacted. Teachers will also need to use that time for planning.

Committee members are also requesting the LMCMS calendar include five additional days with no students in school to allow teachers time to plan lessons and projects as well as participate in professional learning.

Board member Anne Costello shared concerns about the timeline for families. The new open enrollment policy requires the district to allow enrollment through June 30, but the deadline for students to request to transfer to schools outside of their boundaries was set for April 1; the district has extended the deadline to April 12.

“Given that the transfer deadline is April 1, and there are still major questions, is it realistic to expect a parent to make a decision before we have those questions answered?” Costello asked.


Superintendent Anthony Lewis replied that the district will make deadline exceptions for non-LMCMS students who may be interested in attending the STEAM school.

Family outreach nights, where folks interested in STEAM can learn more and ask questions, are scheduled for 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 16 and Tuesday, May 14 at LMCSM.

“I think if we could continue to get feedback over the next week or two, we could have a potentially adjusted schedule available for that parent information meeting in April, but at some point we need to know what works for the board, what works for (the district’s executive leadership team) and what works for the community,” LMCMS Vice Principal Phil Mitchell told the board. “And like we said, we’re flexible but we need to know where those kind of boundaries are.”

The regular middle school course schedule includes math, English language arts, social studies, student success, science, physical education and two additional electives. The STEAM schedule could include student success, core time, inquiry, fine arts and physical education.

For fine arts, sixth graders will take two-week introductions to band, choir, orchestra, art and theater, then select one of those focus areas. They’ll then continue with that focus area through seventh and eighth grades.

With an increased focus on sciences and arts, the school will require more full-time teachers, which the district must also factor in.

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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