(Editor’s note: This story appeared in print on March 27. This version ran online the same day to update the story.)
By Jeff Gallatin
School officials delayed action on changing the schedules for middle and high school students after a group of more than 50 parents indicated their opposition to the current plan.
After listening to the parents at the regular March 20 school board meeting, school board members approved separating the question of changing the middle and high schools’ start times next year from a similar plan for the intermediate schools (Chestnut, Maple and Pine) and the primary schools (Birch, Butternut, Forest and Spruce). The board then approved having primary and intermediate schools start their school days 15 minutes earlier, with the primary schools moving from a current start time of 9:05 a.m. to 8:50, and the intermediate schools going from 8:25 a.m. to 8:10 am.
However, the proposal to move the middle school start time from 7:38 a.m. to 7:23 and the high school from 7:45 a.m. to 7:20 drew strong verbal opposition, prompting the board to table it and schedule another vote for a special meeting set for 6:30 p.m. last night (March 26).
Among the parents’ contentions were that the move would cost students additional sleep; that most students would not use a proposed academic intervention period at the end of the new school day; and that students involved in extracurricular activities would also be adversely affected.
District officials have said the move will allow the district to better prepare students for coming changes in state educational requirements by having more education classroom education time as well as the intervention period for teachers to work with students. They also said students involved in athletics will have to stay for a study table after school and before the start of practice, since athletics start times will remain the same.
School board President John Lasko said the delay will allow the board additional time to consider the proposal and the various points raised by the parents.
Terry Krivak, interim superintendent for the district, said many educational variables went into the proposal and that administrators have been considering it and tweaking it for months.
He said earlier start times have proven effective for other districts, and that they have maintained or attained educational excellence. He said the oncoming educational requirement mandates from the state will require additional measures to help North Olmsted maintain its high level of excellence.
Stacey Servidio, one of the parents who spoke against the proposal, said later she’s happy the motion was tabled, but questioned whether it would do any good in altering the proposal.
“As many other parents have shared with me, we feel they tabled the motion just for appearances,” she said later. “We are hoping that they are truly looking into other options for our students.”
She questioned the effectiveness of an earlier start time.
“This proposed start time will hinder the education of all our students,” she said. “Only a few students will benefit from the intervention period, and all the kids will have to suffer from a lack of sleep.”
Servidio said student-athletes having to stay after school without an opportunity to come home also will suffer. She said that requiring student-athletes to stay for a study table session after the end of school and before practice starts will not help.
“So our son, who is a varsity baseball pitcher this year and will be returning as a senior next year, will be expected to stay after school without the option of coming home to eat or mentally preparing for games?” she asked. “The time between school and games allows the kids the opportunity to recharge and get ready to put their best efforts forward.”
Servidio said she also is concerned that there were so many negative comments from parents, that if the board passes the proposal, there will be a rift between parents and the school board and school administrators.
“We have always had a great relationship between our parents, school board and administrators. It would be sad to see that change,” she said. “Moving forward with this proposal will definitely affect how the parents feel when it comes time to vote for school board members in the future.”
Another parent, Melissa Meredith, also continued to question the need for the earlier starts.
Meredith said she was surprised at Wednesday’s meeting when Krivac talked about the intent of the after-school intervention period in the proposal as being mandatory for some students, saying she had not seen it presented to parents or the school board that way before. She said parents learned after the meeting that the mandatory period would only affect 7 percent of the middle school student body, adding that they were told the criteria to be used to determine which students would be required to attend, hadn’t been finalized yet.
“I think before making a change to the schedule that is contrary to the recommendations of the CDC and to studies supported by the American Medical Association, at a minimum they should have a concrete plan in place,” she said.
Meredith said the proposal is not supported by parents and students, noting the comments at meetings, e-mails sent to district officials and initial results of an online survey by the district.
“This is a plan without buy-in from parents and students,” she said. “Mr. Krivak mentioned the buy-in from teachers who he referred to as ‘key stakeholders.’ Yet he forgets that parents are stakeholders too.”
Meredith also said she was proud of her middle school daughter Taegan for speaking out against the proposal at the meeting, saying her thoughts were her own and that took courage.