Despite concerns voiced by parents and students Wednesday night, the Parkway Board of Education voted to change the start and end times for all schools midyear. It was a vote that upset parents, with many of them walking out unhappy with the decision.
"I'm disappointed with the fact that two of the people who initially voted to table this, just turned around and voted for it," said Parkway parent Chris Carlson. "I understand where they're coming from, but if they had to do something tonight, I would have rather they reverted back to last year's schedule. At least parents and students are familiar with that, now we don't even know what our bus schedule will be."
"That is disappointing because it was already decided," said parent Lisa Rosenstock. "I am at least encouraged by the fact that they included in the motion that they will continue to look for solutions in the future."
The time changes are set to take effect Oct. 17.
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Last year, the school board voted to add 20 additional minutes to elementary school days and move back the start times for middle school students.
Parkway School District CFO Mark Stockwell said although it gives the kids approximately 10 additional school days each year, the 20-minute addition to elementary school days is contributing to the problem.
"We've tried a lot of things, we are just struggling to make this schedule work," Stockwell said. "We just don't have enough time to get kids to and from school in a timely manner."
District officials said this year's time changes have created transportation issues and the bus schedules are now too close together. Thirty percent of the students are arriving at school late on a regular basis, according to district spokesperson Cathy Kelly, which is why Superintendent Keith Marty proposed adjusting school times by 5 to 10 minutes.
Board members all agree the goal is to get kids to school safely and on time.
Chris Jacob, board president, told parents Wednesday night that student safety is the board's main concern, and the district does not want bus drivers getting into accidents because they are trying to get students to class on time.
"Not only safety, but the stress to the drivers as far as getting where they need to be because I know they are very concerned with getting the kids to class," added board vice president Beth Feldman.
Parkway's Director of Transportation Will Rosa also addressed the transportation issues Wednesday night.
All Parkway schools fit into one of three tiers. (Check your school's tier here.) When times were adjusted last year, it left the district with only 35 minutes between the three tiers which is not enough time for all buses to complete a route and move on to the next route.
Stockwell said the district has made numerous adjustments to bus routes already this year and tried to shorten and move routes, but those changes are not enough to get all kids to class on time.
"We have added additional routes with our extra buses and even have two mechanics driving buses right now," Stockwell said. He said the district has also considered adding 10 buses to the 115-bus fleet, but that would cost $300,000 to $400,000 annually. "It still doesn't solve our problem. The time between the tiers just isn't enough."
The time change approved Wednesday night will depend on the school's tier.
- The first tier, which generally includes the high schools, is currently 7:45 a.m. to 2:40 p.m. and will change to 7:35 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
- The second tier is currently 8:15 a.m. to 3:10 p.m. and will change to 8:20 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.
- The third tier is currently 8:55 a.m. to 3:50 p.m. and will change to 9:05 a.m. to 4 p.m.
"We should be able to deliver kids to school safely and on time," Stockwell told the board Wednesday night.
However, prior to the board's vote, parents spent hours telling board members they did not like the way this proposed change was handled, and they felt that it was deliberately not publicized to parents properly so they offer input on the changes.
"We had an sense of urgency to deal with this, there was not an attempt to deny anyone of anything. I apologize if that was the impression, but that was not the goal," Marty told parents.
Other parents asked board members to go back to the drawing board and come back with a better plan.
"One-third of our students are not getting to class on time. As a superintendent, that is not acceptable. We can't have that situation," Marty told Patch. "I think there is more for us to look at on this, but it's not going to happen tonight. We have to look outside the busing, because busing cannot govern our education."
"I'm very disappointed in seeing all the focus was put on the positive that they think they are putting on these students," Parkway parent Marcie Blatt told Patch. "My middle school child is actually disappointed because she has less time in the afternoon."
Blatt has children in and . She said that, like district officials, her main concern is also safety. However, she told Patch she feels the proposed time changes are unsafe.
"These children will not be getting home until the middle of rush hour and and until after it is dark, and that is unsafe," Blatt tells Patch. "Safety should be a priority above giving kids an extra 20 minutes of sleep. There is not a single elementary school close to us that releases kids after 3:50 p.m."
Parent Stefanie White has a son in . She said any time change affects her work schedule, and she's already rearranged her schedule around the time change implemented at the beginning of this school year. Oak Brook happens to be in tier one and would have school start 10 minutes earlier with its new hours being 7:35 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
"I've already had to fluctuate my job to get out early because of the time changes. And now I will have to talk to my boss again to leave even earlier, and that's not going to go over well," White told Patch."I'm not going to put my son in child care for the extra 20 minutes, that's not an option."
Parent Valerie Bird has a child attending and another attending . Like many parents Wednesday night, Bird is concerned that her children will begin class even earlier and that was something that the district was initially trying to avoid citing research that students were less productive at the earlier hours. School officials previously said that research was the key reason for moving back middle school start times this school year.
Bird feels students don't need to start class before 8 a.m.
"Whatever time they get out of class doesn't affect my personal life, I just think their (the district's) research should be followed," Bird tells Patch. "If the research shows their brain isn't working, then why are we putting then in school even earlier?"
Board member Dee Mogerman suggested the district consider not making changes to school times where the schedules are working for the schools right now.
Helen Casteel motioned to table the matter citing the great suggestions by the parents and students. That motion did not pass.
However, another motion by board member Sam Sciortino to adopt the recommended time changes, but continue to study potential solutions for next year did pass 6:1 Wednesday night.
"At this point we are where we are, and we just need to make an adjustment this year to make this work because there isn't a satisfactory solution," said Sciortino. "We do not want to continue this school year with one-third of the students tardy to school and what better option do we have? So at this point, I think the patience of the community would be appreciated so we can make a decision to get us through the year."
"If we don't make a decision now, we're just kicking the can down the road," board member Tom Appelbaum added.
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