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BOE Nixes Bell Change

Much to the pleasure of parents, the Westbury Board of Education has decided not to change the bell schedule at Park Avenue school for a second time.  

The Board first changed the bell schedule before the school year started. By having the Park Avenue school day start later, the district was able to save a signficant amount of money on buses. Many parents and faculty were frustrated not only with the 9:20 a.m. student arrival time, but the decrease in instructional time that resulted with the change. An option to extend the school day to 3:55 p.m. was presented, but parents openly expressed their disapproval of the idea. Dozens of parents came to the September 19 Board of Education meeting, urging the board not to make the change. 150 parents signed a petition and 230 signed a letter, asking the board to change the Park Avenue bell schedule back to how it originally was in the 2012-13 school year. Board president Rodney Caines said that after hearing the community input, the board agreed a second change would be a bad idea.

“School ending later would have interfered with too much,” Caines said. “When we weighed the impact that the later school day would have on other groups, we felt that it would be more of a hardship. That as well as the sentiments of the community.”

And while the board has decided not to make another mid-year change to the schedule, they are not going back to the orginial schedule.

“We can’t go back to the original schedule because we’d have to restore the buses and the bus rates have changed,” Caines said. “Our approach is to continue to monitor the efficiency of the schedule and if there are ways to adjust the schedule and make it more efficient, we’ll have those discussions when it comes up.”

Caines says that the board relies heavily on the administration’s guidance on what will and will not work in the district. He says that the board and administration will continue to have discussions about the schedule to find a solution that works for the district’s budget, parents, and tax payer dollars.

Stacy Turner, Park Avenue PTA Corresponding Secretary, says the board’s decision to not change the schedule is a partial victory. She was one of the parents who organized other Park Avenue parents together to sign petitions. One of her reasons for not supporting another bell schedule change was that students learn better in the morning.

“In the long run, we’re going to lose almost 20 days of school since (students) are going later, but I’m glad they’re not coming home later.” Turner said. “We need to recoup that time, but having kids stay past the point they would be learning wasn’t the solution either. I’m satisfied.”

Park Avenue PTA President Marie Guilfu had similar concerns over the shorter class day.

“We still lose instructional time, and I’m not sure how they’re going to compensate for that but (overall) I’m glad they’re going to keep it as it is. Everyone’s already adjusted to the schedule,” Guilfu said.

The instructional period of 9:40 a.m. to 3 p.m. does meet the state mandated educational requirements of atleast five hours in the classroom. Caines says that while a longer day would of course be more desireable, it’s hard to accommodate for with the budget and two percent tax cap.

“A longer day would be beneficial, but whether or not that longer school day can meet the budget or two percent tax cap is where the issue lies,” Caines said.  “When youre faced with a tax cap, you have to do more with less.

A meeting to discuss the Board’s decision was scheduled for last Wednesday, but was cancelled that afternoon because the information (such as the agenda or topic) was not correctly presented.