WHS begins early release Fridays

Winters High School (Express file photo)

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Winters High School adjusted its bell schedule to align with the early release times of other Winters school sites for the 2022-23 school year.

Previously, the WHS bell schedule alternated between their Explore Friday classes and late start Fridays to provide an opportunity for their staff to engage in a professional learning community.

In the fall of 2021, both Waggoner Elementary and Shirley Rominger Intermediate schools began providing time for staff to participate in professional learning communities by incorporating early release Fridays into their bell schedules. Winters Middle School soon followed in October 2021.

The changes were made to each school site’s bell schedule to ensure the state instructional minutes requirements are still met.

Phoebe Girimonte, Acting Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, said the school received feedback from families that the difference in the WHS late start and the other school sites’ early release times was challenging, especially for families who relied on older siblings to help with younger ones after school.

Girimonte said staff took the feedback to heart, and with WHS being the only outlier in bell schedules, the best approach was to make the adjustment to have each school have consistent early Friday release times.

Discussions regarding the WHS bell schedule began during the summer when the deadline for a 2019 California law mandating the school day start no earlier than 8 a.m. for middle grades and 8:30 a.m. for high schoolers went into effect.

Girimonte said data from the 2020 Census, and their eligibility for the Federal Communications Commission E-Rate program, causes Winters schools to meet the definition of “rural” and exempts them from the mandate.

Through those discussions, Winters Joint Unified School District staff and WHS administrators made changes to better line the schedules up for families, recognizing the hardship could be overcome.

“There is a burden families carry when we have a schedule that is out of the ordinary,” Girimonte said.

Girimonte added last school year, some of the high school’s late start dates didn’t line up with the other sites’ early release dates, and the school district made steps to prevent that from happening again.

“Last year, not all the early Friday releases aligned,” Girimonte said. “We collaborated across all four sites and are now the same — And all the bell schedules line up, too”

Friday, Aug. 19 is the first Early Release Friday for WHS students for the school year.

On Aug. 11, WHS Principal John Barsotti sent a message to high school families on the ParentSquare app detailing the Early Release Friday dates. Girimonte sent a district-wide Family Welcome Letter on ParentSquare to all Winters Joint Unified School District families on Aug. 5 with a link to all of the Winters JUSD bell schedules.

WHS families can find out if it’s an Explore or Early Release Friday week through the weekly update from WHS Librarian Olivia Rodriguez on Mondays. The calendar on the WHS website homepage distinguishes Explore weeks that will continue to release students at 3:20 p.m. versus the new Early Release time of 1:15 p.m.

Girimonte said the marquee outside the high school will also announce when it is an Explore or an Early Release Friday week.

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