Much has been discussed around the work that has been done over the past three years, going on four now, to solve for a better start time solution. There is no question there has been a tremendous amount of research, debate and outreach around this issue. However, the reason we have not come to a good place where the overwhelming majority of our 4,200 current enrolled student community is served is that we have been solving around an 8:30 a.m. start time for high school students solely. The approach has brought many, many scenarios on how to adjust start time for this perfect ideal but at the expense of the youngest children and 5/6 graders.
For example, the last scenario has children being dropped at school by buses 20 minutes prior to school starting just to allow for buses to recirculate for the high school students. Additional care is then required and pick up times as early as 7:01 based on the last bus consultant. Our 5/6 graders would be facing such a late start that before school care would be required for many and some would not get home until nearly 5pm. This wipes away important time for socialization, homework and extracurriculars that serve to keep our kids healthy as well.
The original brief of obtaining the objective of an 8:30 start time in a vacuum sounds wonderful. But that is just it—it is in a vacuum. Three scenarios were provided to all parents with children in the school system last fall. None were widely loved but one with a 2-tier system was the best solution presented at the time. It was deemed too costly by the BOE at $1.2 million. This represents just 1% our total budget.
What is important to note on this timing is that while high school parents had three years of information and waiting, the rest of us, unless knee deep in the BOE workings, had no clue. And even then this was a high school discussion and one that on the surface sounds like a no-brainer. Those of us who became aware of the full situation, the effects on our littlest ones, last fall through a survey had four short months to be heard and request new approaches.
My children are thriving. I am overjoyed at the way we have opened schools and the opportunities our children have from the incredible support our town provides. Our leaders deserve our thanks and respect but not always our full wholehearted, without question support.
It is time for a new brief. One that serves the overwhelming majority of our students. Nothing will be perfect but we can most certainly do better.
Key Initiative: Health and Wellbeing as provided by appropriate sleep time for all children.
Objective: Understand the financial scenario of getting all children to school between 8-9 a.m.
Examples of Points of Negotiation:
- Which schools start first
- Collapsing of 5-8 grades to avoid traffic issues at Farm Rd/South Ave intersection and drive efficiencies on buses
- Number of buses
A new brief by no means throwing out all the work that has been done but rather informs a better place. One that widely serves our entire school community. We should be able to do this quickly. The last bus consultant was able in a matter of weeks to review the routes we had to confirm their efficiencies. This work can be built upon to change the model to solve for a new number of buses with the properly included variables. A brief only is as good as its inputs and defined objectives. It should be noted that last year the Board did ask the Administration and the last bus consultant if they solved for an 8-9 start time for all students and the answer was no. The logical next step is to change the brief.
I provide these points of view with:
- Humility—I do not profess to know all the details of the past three years but of those from last fall and from that is where I base my knowledge and observations. If we did ever solve for a 8-9 start time, what are the details?
- Fortitude—This is an incredibly important subject and one that I and many believe in as displayed through petitions, personal presentations and communications written across the school year not just the last Town Council meeting. We deserve the respect back to address the feasibility of a better start time scenario.
- An Open Mind—I truly believe that a mind is like a parachute. It only works when open. We have so much talent in this town I know there is a way to come to a great place.
My greatest respect and optimism for a better solution,