WINDHAM — The School Board has put a hold on approving a new plan to change the times school starts and ends in the district.
At a meeting Feb. 4, board members decided a proposed change to the start and end time for school needed more study and input from school officials, teachers, and other stakeholders. The proposed plan’s recommended highlights include maintaining the length of the school day in all Windham schools but with altered start and end times.
All kindergarten through eighth-grade schools would have eight 45-minute instructional periods per day; unified arts schedules would be more efficient and equitable to support staff needing to travel among different schools during the day; and all teachers in grades kindergarten through eight would have a 45-minute prep time and a 25-minute lunch period.
As for school starting times, Golden Brook School would start at 8:55 a.m. instead of the current 8:40 a.m. and end at 3:05 p.m., 15 minutes later than the current dismissal time.
Windham Center School, under the proposed change, would start 15 minutes later and also end 15 minutes later. The middle school would have similar added time for start and end schedules.
Windham High School, on the other hand, would see an earlier start to the day at 7:40 a.m. instead of the current 7:52 start time. Dismissal would be 15 minutes earlier.
Another change as part of the proposed plan would put a three-tier bus schedule into place to help reduce current crowding. The change, officials say, would also reduce bus travel time for students and would put a full fleet of 24 buses in place to run to all schools to increase efficiency.
A reduction of two buses would save the district $130,000.
A new “Breakfast Club” at Golden Brook School would also be implemented for students wanting to purchase breakfast or for academic help. Drop-off time for this program would be 8:25 a.m. Current drop-off time is 8:20 a.m.
Many people spoke out at the meeting with concerns about bus traffic at schools, especially with a proposal to increase the number of buses running to all schools to 24.
Daniel Popovici-Muller, a former School Board member, said he was concerned also about having high school students start the day earlier. He said there is evidence to prove that students do best when starting the day later.
“You have the science,” he told the board.
In a letter to the School Board and Superintendent Richard Langlois dated Feb. 2, AnnMarie Morse, representing the Windham Education Association, also voiced concerns the union had about the proposed changes to start and end times.
The letter had 13 bullet points of specific concerns relating to various parts of the proposal, including how students attending the high school would experience negative impact concerning before-school tutoring times. Another concern noted that middle school students would have difficulty completing most science labs in a 45-minute period as suggested in the new plan.
Another concern is traffic congestion at the high school, made more difficult if the bus number servicing the school increases from eight to 24, the letter stated. The union’s letter also suggests the schedule changes were proposed “in retaliation for the successful settlement of grievances this school year.”
Langlois said he supported the changes and that the new schedule would also support teachers, students and make time more efficient for unified arts staff who travel between various schools.
He also supported an earlier start time for high school, noting that many area high schools start earlier than the proposed Windham High start time.
Langlois stressed the changes weren’t brought forward because of any financial reasons.
Board member Dennis Senibaldi said he needed more time.
“I have too many questions still,” he said. “I want to keep working on it. I don’t see the rush.”
Senibaldi said it’s never been about the budget savings, but said it’s too early to make a decision.
“It requires a lot more thought,” he said.
The board agreed to work on bringing a contingent of stakeholders together, including board members, school administrators, teachers, and district staff to work on the proposal more prior to making a final decision. Future workshops will be planned.