Parents debate over changing school start times

The community remains divided on school start times, with some parents arguing that new times must be implemented and others saying the current structure is working just fine.

That was the general feeling at a parent focus group led by the Board of Education’s Strategic Planning Committee Monday, April 17.

The focus group was one in a series of groups geared toward teachers, administrators, students, community members, and parents. The last one took place Tuesday, April 18.

Board member David Cordisco said that after concluding focus groups, the board will be releasing a community-wide survey about start time impacts before making its final recommendation on May 22.

“It impacts teachers, athletics, working parents, after-school jobs — it could be positive or negative,” said Cordisco. “It could impact volunteerism.

“It touches everybody in the community — we are trying to take a thoughtful approach to it, and that’s why we’re having these meetings.”

Student health

Some parents argued that student health was more important than any of the other factors. “The medical facts are not in dispute,” said a father of two girls. “It really comes down to cost and logistics.

“You can talk about community impact, but I would disagree because I thought, as a board member, you’re supposed to represent the kids.”

Another parent said she didn’t agree with athletics being a major barrier to changing start times.

“To me, school is primarily for academic education,” she said. “I don’t think sport times should drive the academic schedule and sport has to take a second place to health.”

Athletics

But others in the audience were concerned that a later start time would negatively impact athletic schedules for students who partake in activities in other towns — mainly swimming.

“Athletically, later start times is an absolute disaster,” said one parent. “I’d have to switch schools if my son can’t swim.”

Cordisco said the board’s subcommittee will review all the information from the focus groups, compile the data from the surveys and make a formal recommendation on start times to the entire board and Superintendent Karen Baldwin on Monday, May 22.

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