School Committee approves start time changes

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After six months of mulling changes to the school start times in favor of giving CHS students more time to sleep, the School Committee decided June 11 in a unanimous 5-0 vote to move forward with the changes beginning in the next school year.

rodman1In addition, the committee also decided to spend some money to hire nine new teachers in an effort to reduce classroom sizes, particularly at CHS and GMS.

Having studied and analyzed the start time issue for the past two-plus years, the committee members all agreed that if the change was not implemented this fall, it might never be done.

With a current start time of 7:20 a.m., CHS is in the small minority of high schools across the country that start before 8 a.m. School Committee member John Bonnanzio said the later start times in many other communities have proven to have educational, health, and safety benefits.

School Committee Chairman Bob Golledge said the key to the committee staying within its town meeting-approved budget and affording both the start time changes and the additional teachers was a decision to lease and not purchase six additional buses. Michael J. Connolly & Sons will provide the buses and drivers while the Canton Public Schools will pay for leasing costs.

In his blog on the Canton Public Schools website, outgoing School Superintendent Jeff Granatino said the district will now move to three tiers of transportation instead of four tiers, with the middle and high schools being combined into a single tier.

Starting on September 1, the district will operate with the following times: GMS, 7:50 a.m. to 2:10 p.m.; CHS, 8 a.m. to 2:24 p.m.; JFK and Hansen, 8:35 a.m. to 2:50 p.m.; and Luce and St. John the Evangelist, 9:05 a.m. to 3:20 p.m.

The committee had previously voted to rotate the elementary tiers beginning in the 2016-17 school year. That plan is still in place and will not be impacted by the change in start times at the secondary schools.

However, after an hour of discussion and further input by parents, committee member Kristin Mirliani suggested that the rotations are temporary, and that if all goes well, the next phase could have all the elementary schools starting and ending at the same time, thus alleviating concerns about late afternoon arrivals for the school in the third tier.

Changing the start times and reducing class sizes were school officials’ top two budget priorities for the upcoming fiscal year. The committee began the budget process by adding 16 teachers but ended up with nine. “This starts us in the right direction,” said Golledge. “It still remains a high priority for next year.”

Bonnanzio said the only remaining objective from an excellent school budget year is the passage of the debt-exclusion override to fund an addition at the Hansen School.

“If you told me six months ago, we would have the money for school start times, a five percent budget increase, hiring more teachers, and the Hansen override, I would say that’s a great day for the Canton Public Schools,” he said. “If we get the override vote, we are in a very good situation. I have seen years when we had to cut and cut …

See this week’s Canton Citizen for more highlights from the June 11 School Committee meeting. Not a subscriber? Click here to order your subscription today.

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