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BPS responds to parent pushback

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the Banner’s senior editor. VIEW BIO
BPS responds to parent pushback
BPS Superintendent Tommy Chang.

Boston Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang emailed a letter to parents yesterday touting positive feedback from high school communities, while acknowledging the fierce pushback from elementary school parents.

(Full text of letter appears at end of this post)

Notably, the letter gives no assurance that BPS is willing to budge from the 7:15 a.m. start times many elementary parents say would force them to wake kindergarteners up at or before 6 a.m. Apparently the more than 6,700 parents who signed a petition have not made a dent in Chang’s resolve to push forward with the plan.

In his letter, Chang assures parents that the department is “deeply committed to minimizing any disruptions these changes may cause,” and offers somewhat of an intercession for unsympathetic employers:

“BPS is happy to provide parents, guardians, and students with letters to employers notifying them of a school scheduling change and explaining why this may necessitate a change of working hours,” the letter reads. “For this, please email starttimes@bostonpublicschools.org.”

Also in the FAQ section of the BPS webpage on start times:

• We are working with the Boys & Girls Club of Boston, the YMCA of Greater Boston, the Boston Centers for Youth and Families, and a number of community-based organizations to provide expanded before- and after-school care that will be custom-tailored to each individual school’s needs. This additional programming will be designed to support parents and families impacted by the new start times. The district is committed to reinvesting a portion of the savings created by the new start and end times into expanding before- or after-school programming where needed.

For parents unable to work with the changed times, there’s always the option of changing schools:

• We realize that in some cases, the only option for families may be to change schools. For more information on this process, please visit a BPS Welcome Center, its website, bostonpublicschools.org/welcomeservices, or call 617-635-9010. Please also consider attending the BPS School Showcase on Saturday, December 9, at TD Garden; the event begins at 9:00 am and ends at 1:00 pm. For more information, visit bostonpublicschools.org/registrationevents.

Additionally, BPS officials are planning a series of ten meetings next Monday through Thursday, giving community members a window to offer further comment.


Chang’s letter:

December 12, 2017

Dear Boston Public Schools Families:

Last Thursday, the Boston Public Schools (BPS) released the new start times at all BPS schools for the 2018-19 school year, which can be found online at bostonpublicschools.org/starttimes. This work is the result of 18 months of comprehensive analysis and community input. Our goal was to thoughtfully and equitably restructure school start times to create schedules that are more conducive for student learning.

Since then, we have heard from many school communities who are pleased with the new start times and appreciate the benefits this work will have system-wide on improving student outcomes. We’ve also heard from others who have shared concerns over the new bell times.

Please know that my entire leadership team is sensitive to all feedback and has heard your voices loud and clear. We understand the impacts that adjustments to your children’s school day can have on your family’s schedule. We are also deeply committed to minimizing any disruptions these changes may cause.

Here are some of the many steps we are taking to respond to some of the questions parents have raised:

We are working with the Boys & Girls Club of Boston, the YMCA of Greater Boston, the Boston Centers for Youth and Families, and a number of community-based organizations to provide expanded before- and after-school care that will be custom-tailored to each individual school’s needs. This additional programming will be designed to support parents and families impacted by the new start times. The district is committed to reinvesting a portion of the savings created by the new start and end times into expanding before- or after-school programming where needed.

The BPS Athletics Department, which has been involved throughout this process, is working to develop sports schedules that will meet the needs of our schools and their student athletes. All BPS students will have the same opportunity to participate in athletics programs that are available today.

We will be hosting a series of community meetings next week to address concerns around the new start times. Please click this link for the times and locations of those meetings. We are also responding to phone calls and emails we are receiving regarding this issue.

As we move forward in supporting our school communities with these changes, it is important that we remind our families and staff of the reasons why we carried out this work. Start times are being changed due to an abundance of research that shows academic outcomes improve for secondary school students when they start school later and for elementary school students when they start earlier. We believe that the new times will better and more equitably serve our students. They are also reflective of the feedback we have heard during our community engagement process, as well as reflect the new School Committee policy.

Through our new policy, we will be:

Tripling the number of secondary school students starting at or after 8am — an increase from 27% to 94%;

Reducing by half the number of elementary school students dismissing after 4pm — from 33% of elementary students to 15%;

Continuing choice in start times across neighborhoods, while ensuring equity across the district.

We value your continued feedback on this issue. You can share your input and concerns by emailing: starttimes@bostonpublicschools.org. To learn more about the issue, please review our Start Times FAQ at: bostonpublicschools.org/starttimes/FAQ. We are continuing to update this webpage with answers to questions and concerns we have received since last week.

Sincerely,

Tommy Chang, Ed.D.

Superintendent

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