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8:30 school start time in 2020 referred to subcommittee

Differences emerged among School Committee members and principals and among committee members themselves as those involved discussed changing the school start time in 2020-21.

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The high school, Ottoson and Gibbs principals agreed with committee members that a new start time of 8:30 a.m. for middle and high school students beginning in September 2020 would benefit for both teaching and learning. They disagreed about who would be responsible for the all the aspects of the roll-out.

Finally, at the June 13 meeting, the committee voted unanimously that the communication subcommittee would handle consideration of the various challenges, collect data, send announcements and finally organize public meetings. Negotiating with the teachers’ union would be the responsibility of the entire committee. Despite some challenges, the start time is expected to be 8:30 for the middle schools and high school as of September 2020.

The committee also considered a new appointee to the Human Rights Commission, the school calendar, results of the override, a report from special education and revisions to the budget.

For start time, challenges remain

At a March meeting, School Committee members voted to approve a September 2020 start time for both middle schools and high schools unless the three principals found significant obstacles.  The principals of the Gibbs, Ottoson and high school reported back at the June 13 meeting to address the 8:30 start time.

The middle school principals reported first. Brian Meringer, principal of Ottoson, said both principals “see the benefits” for students in term of increasing sleep time. A second benefit for the Gibbs, reported by Principal Kristin DeFrancisco, is that all four school buses will be able to arrive at that same time because the elementary school and Gibbs starting schedules will be different.

However, DeFrancisco continued, when she “started digging a little bit,” other logistical issues came to light. She named four:

  • Some working parents need to drop off their children as early as 7 a.m., and now there will be an additional 30 minutes with no supervision or shelter;
  • Many teachers must drive long distances, and if they left later, they would encounter significant rush-hour traffic;
  • The Metco students at Gibbs ride the elementary school bus and would arrive very early; and
  • The current teachers’ contract says that afternoon school teachers’ meeting cannot contractually begin after 2:45 p.m.

Subcommittee to weigh

DeFrancisco asked that a subcommittee of the School Committee be formed to address all of these issues.

Read documents related to this issue, including bus schedules >> 

Matt Janger, principal of Arlington High School, reported the same concerns but said with challenges are opportunities. He emphasized that the extra time sleep time will have a positive effect on student learning. Moreover, athletic schedules will not be much of a problem because many schools in the league have already switched over to the later start time.

Janger said the high school staff “has been thinking about it for three years and has worked out many of the major issues.” However, he continued, “the remaining issues are the ones that impact our goal of positively impacting our students’ sleep time and learning.”

Most important, Janger argued, was setting up a process to resolve the remaining issues. One big issue was to “keep the teachers in school from 8 to 3:30.” One possibility would be to have a shortened school day, but Meringer said this could be problematic for Ottoson.

What has to be decided, he opined, is the process -– “Who is to talk with whom, who is gathering information and where are the decisions going to be made?”

Committee member Jennifer Susse responded, “I am confused by the presentations.” She said. “I thought we would get more information.”


Committee member Paul Schlichtman also expressed concern with the presentations. He reminded the principals that last winter the committee decided to move to a September 2020 start date and the principals were to report in June how they could arrange their schooling to allow for the early start time.

Janger corrected Schlichtman on the date of the previous discussion, which he said was in April, but was actually in March. He also made clear that there were important considerations that the principals had no control over, such as the Metco bus schedule, times other organizations use the school building and negotiations with the teachers’ union.

Finally, the committee voted unanimously for an 8:30 start time beginning in September 2020 and the implementation for the start time will be referred to the community relations subcommittee. The School Committee as a whole would participate in any renegotiation of the Arlington Education Association contract.

Other business

In other business, the committee appointed Kathleen Rogers to the Arlington Human Rights Commission, heard the LABBB Inclusion Report and Special Education Update from Alison Elmer, and discussed the fiscal 2019 and fiscal 2020 budget revisions

Following these business items, the committee went into executive session to discuss security personnel, the contract for the paraprofessional union and Superintendent Kathleen Bodie’s contract.

At 10:30 the committee voted to accept the AEA paraprofessional and Bodie’s contract before adjourning.

March 20, 2019: Vote backs 8:30 a.m. start for middle, high schools in 2020

June 19, 2019: Bodie accepts new contract after 4-3 vote, to retire in 2 years

This news summary by YourArlington freelancer Jo Anne Preston was published Wednesday, June 26, 2019.

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