K-12 school committees to readdress Start Time issues on Wednesday at 6pm (Updated)

by beth on March 15, 2018

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Above: While some parents and students adovocate for later start times for older kids, the schools are struggling with how to schedule busing for all kids – including younger ones who take longer to get on board. (image left from SSL Facebook page, photo right by Joao Melo)

Four years ago, parents began asking Algonquin to find a way to Start School Later for high schoolers. Since then, our 3-districts’ administration has struggled to address the issue. No fixes have been implemented, with each potential solution seeming to have undesirable domino effects.

The school committees will readdress the complicated issue at their combined meeting on March 21st. Superintendent Christine Johnson previewed the update to Southborough’s K-8 School Committe last month.

The Superintendent gave hope for some progress on bus issues. But she also bookended her update with references to “innovative approaches” like schedule changes and flex blocks that focus more on what they do “during the course of the day”. Johnson has always maintained that the issue is about “more than hands on the clock”.

In the February discussion, the Superintendent pointed out some of the many factors the schools need to consider. The primary economic challenge has always been the regional transportation costs. With K-8 in Southborough and 9-12 in Northborough, an overlap in busing wouldn’t work without adding more buses. But funding that is just one of the challenges.

One of the elements that changed over time was increased concern about middle school start times.

Johnson also referred to:

  • teachers’ collective bargaining over what their school day looks like
  • older students expected to be home in time to take care of younger siblings
  • parents of different age groups’ different concerns – like children leaving too early or coming home after dark
  • impact on after school programs and sports

Any start time changes that do happen (if they happen) would require giving families a lot of notice to adjust.

As for busing, Johnson said they are trying a different way of looking at the routes again, including reducing the number of bus stops. If they could shorten routes, they may be able to adjust the high school’s start time by 30 minutes but only impact lower schools by 15 minutes.

But challenges they face include our traditional traffic challenges due to buses traveling on major commuting routes – 9, 495, and 20. Plus, they need to look at potential impacts of the Main Street Reconstruction Project and Public Safety Building Construction (next to Woodward School). Both of those projects are slated to begin this spring.

The Combined Committee meeting will include a presentation by an Algonquin staff member who also serves on the Wachusett Regional School Committee. Johnson stressed that talking through any solutions needs to be done at the Combined meetings, since we are “one community of learners”.

The meeting is scheduled for 6:00 pm on Wednesday, March 21 in Algonquin’s library at 79 Bartlett Street, Northborough.

Updated (3/19/18 12:02 pm): I originally posted Wednesday’s meeting as starting at 6:30 pm. Ironically, anyone who wants to catch the talk in person will have to arrive at the high school 30 minutes earlier. The agenda came out today showing a 6:00 pm start time.

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