Written by Betsy Abraham Thursday, 29 August 2013 00:00
Park Avenue School students will get to sleep in a little later this year as a new bell schedule has their school day starting at 9:25 a.m., half an hour later than last year when they started at 8:55 a.m. However, several parents are unhappy with the change, as they scramble to find arrangements to drop off their kids or make sure they get to the bus stop half an hour later than usual. Many parents were also upset that with the bell schedule change comes 40 minutes less for instruction.
“The old schedule was a straight six hours. 40 minutes is really a big deal for first and second grade students,” Michelle Johnson said.
The bell change was approved back in May with the budget as a means to avoid cutting staff. By staggering the buses, so they could go to Dryden Street School and then Park
Avenue, the district will save anywhere from $160,000 to $180,000.
“This would not jeopardize the academic programs and we were trying to save all the teachers on our staff with attrition,” Superintendent Mary Lagnado said.
“We meet the NYSED compliance of five hours of instruction, as well as six hours and 25 minutes of teacher contraction and that’s how we made the schedule,” Eudes Budhai, the Interim Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Personnel, said.
The change will allow for a common prep period for all teachers at the start of the school day, whereas before, each teacher had their prep period at a different time throughout the day. Teachers will now begin their day with a prep period at 8:45 a.m. and instructional time will take place from 9:40 a.m. to 3 p.m., which includes a 20 minute lunch period (followed by a structured recess that acts as a gym class). Before, the school day went from 8:55 a.m. to 2:55 p.m.
Buses will start picking students up at stops from 8:30 to 9:04 a.m. They will be able to enter the school at 9:25, where they can eat breakfast. The district has made a huge push for universal breakfast in recent years.
Statistics show nutrition is key to student achievement. Having our students eat a healthy breakfast is a priority,” Lagnado says. “We want to have every child, whether you meet the requirement for free or reduced lunch or not, to get breakfast. If we can provide it, why not?”
Busing will commence at 3:15 p.m. There will be approximately 20 buses and the district is striving to have school personnel or a bus company monitor on each bus.
Several parents expressed their frustrations over the change in the schedule at the August 22 Board of Education meeting. The discussion lasted over almost 90 minutes, as the board and parents discussed the change, the budget, the unique needs of the district and what would be improved.
“The concern is that parents have to get leeway from their employment to come in late or get childcare in the morning. Some parents can’t afford it,” PTA Council president Larry Kirton said.
Claudette Pacanontavivit, a mother of a child at Park Avenue, was concerned that students were not getting enough time in the classroom.
“These children need more,” Pacanontavivit said. “Look at the hours these students are sitting at a chair and getting instructional time. These are second graders, they need this time to be in school. We need to do more otherwise our state assessment scores will continue to flat line.”
“Believe me, we want to give more,” Lagnado responded. “We’re trying to provide more. And this is the way we could come up with it this year. We don’t want to cut any more programs. We knew this would be sound and all the staff is still in place at Park Avenue.”
“Nobody likes change,” Lagnado said. “But we are making this change so we can keep our educational program intact and keep teachers. The board is making sure we have the programs we need.”
Board members also implored parents to keep coming out to meetings and encourage others to attend to improve the dialogue.
“The needs of the students in our district far supersede the needs of other districts. We’re dealing with a whole different dynamic. But in other districts, those parents are there.
It takes a village to do what we need to do. We all need to do it. Help us so we can help you,” trustee Leslie Davis said.
Trustee Karin Campbell said that because of the unique challenges the district faced-such as high enrollment, a high population of ESL students, and lack of money-the board and community would have to go about dealing with things differently.
“Maybe we can’t be like other districts who just meet once a month. We need to put in more time, meet more and have more community involvement,” Campbell said. “When I was in school here, the entire community was involved. And that’s what’s missing. We don’t have the parent support we need.”