Letter: School start time change implementation is a travesty


To the editor:

How is it that we can afford a $68 million middle school but we can’t find $307,000 to implement school start time change next year? 

I just don’t understand. 

While the school committee has indicated that we don’t have money to pay for anything extra — that all of the allotted monies are required just to keep services level — I do not accept that. Anyone who’s managed a $50 million budget knows you can find $300,000. 

When trying to do something critically important that seems difficult (particularly after they’ve committed to something) successful organizations and managers don’t ask, “Can we do it?” They can’t afford to. Instead they ask, “How can we do it?” Successful organizations stay focused on their key priorities, challenge what needs to stay and what needs to go, and don’t fall prey to ‘doing things the way they’ve always been done’. 

I applaud Dr. Megan Douglas for being the only school committee member to stand up to this. Earlier in March, she was the only school committee member with the courage and conviction to vote against the budget that didn’t include funds for school start time change. She stood up for the reasons we elected her. She stood up for the decision and commitment that the school committee made over a year ago, but has still failed to keep. 

In the face of another postponement of school start time change, our children are the losers. My son wants to know why the school committee can’t just “do what they said they’re going to do?” and I can’t give him a reason that I find acceptable. It’s a struggle for him to get up in the morning to make it on time for school. You cannot convince me that this is good for his well-being. Although I woke up at 6 a.m. to get to high school by 7:30 a.m., our children are fortunate enough that now we know better.

The school committee’s continued disregard of last year’s decision to execute school start time change is dismaying. What message does this send to our community? This town deserves more.

Jennifer Ingram



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Thank you Jennifer and many of us share your frustration. I do fully appreciate the significant tax increase the town is facing due to the need for a new middle school. I think the situation we find ourselves in is due to a lack of longer term financial planning as a district. I hope we can learn from this and make changes so this does not occur again.

As a district, not being able to meet the medical recommendations of the CDC and APA related to the health of our children is unacceptable. We would not stand for this as parents if we were advised that their was no budget to ensure vaccines for our children. This isn't a matter of personal opinion, or what we wish for, this is a medical fact, supported by significant science.

As someone who has been involved in this process, I urge people to attend SC meetings and reach out to members. I also ask you to challenge the costs being presented. While we would like additional buses to further reduce student ride time, a change in start time does not require additional buses. The only additional cost necessary to make a healthy start time for our 11-18 year olds is the cost of an extra hour per day per bus of bus monitors. A healthy start time can begin this fall for well under $307.000. Likely a quarter of this amount.

We need to demand healthy start times, which were voted on and approved to begin this fall, backed by medical research, while also being fiscally responsible.

Tuesday, March 21 | Report this

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.