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Letter: Is The New Bell Schedule The Best The Board Can Do?

Community commentary on last week’s article written on WUFSD’s parent concern over Park Avenue School's new bell schedule is the hot topic for many working parents. The Board of Education forgot it’s first operational goal: to work closely with the community to ensure that Board actions and performance take into consideration the concerns and aspirations of the community.


Changing the instructional start time for 1st and 2nd grade students from 8:55 to 9:40 as a means to saving employee compensation by avoiding cutting the equivalent of 1 full-time and 1 part-time teacher is a move in a direction of more negative consequences than it is worth.


 The student drop-off time of 9:20 is for all students no matter whether they are transported by bus, dropped off by parents or are walkers.  No child should arrive before 9:20 a.m. The drop-off time is also the start time that breakfast will be served to all students under the Universal Breakfast Program.  It will be very interesting to see how, within a span of 20 minutes, approximately 900 first and second grade students will be allowed into the building, be served a nutritious meal, have time to eat and be escorted to their classrooms to start instruction at 9:40.  I foresee that instruction session time will be unofficially reduced by late starts.  


The bell change that results in a 45 minute delay in the start of the instructional day lowers the probability of student success when combined with the breakfast program that will serve approximately 900 students if all participate in the universal breakfast program. Hypothetically, if 150 students are served within 5 minutes of arrival, are allowed 10 minutes to eat and 5 minutes to be organized and taken to class, then the possibility is more realistic with the current staffing and facility constraints.  More than three times that number are bus transported, and based on facility constraints that limits lunch for all to multiple seatings, its unconceivable that the breakfast program will be run more efficiently than the lunch program.  I believe there may be six 20 minute lunch seatings to accommodate 900 students.


All of this for the benefit of a $160,000 to $180,000 transportation savings at a impact cost of minimal instruction session time and disruption to working parents job schedule changes, loss of job security or increased out of pocket cost for childcare.  Let’s just hope that wise decisions are made in the homes of the affected families and that the bell change is not triggering a hazardous environment where there is an increase in the number of latchkey kids.


 The Westbury Board of Education did not serve the parents and students of our community well with this decision to save teacher jobs in this manner.  Shame on the trustee that brought forth the bell change idea that the Board directed central Administration to make happen.  The plan that this idea has evolved into should makes us all pause and wonder: “Is this the best they can do & what’s next?”. 


Larry Kirton