Later dismissal time concerns Barrington parents
New plan calls for 4 p.m. dismissal for fourth- and fifth-graders
Part of the proposed plan to push school start times at Barrington High School and Middle School to 8:15 a.m. included shifting the start time at Hampden Meadows School (grades 4 and 5) to 9:30 a.m.
That later start — HMS currently begins classes at 8:50 — would push back dismissal to 4 p.m. (It is currently 3:20 p.m.) Barrington school officials said at a meeting on Thursday night that some students might not be getting home until 4:45.
"We can't be dismissing Hampden Meadows kids this late. I'm about safety and this is a safety issue," said Barrington School Committee member Gina Pine.
Ms. Pine added that she would have serious concerns about having the district's younger students walking home in the dark.
"That's way too late of a dismissal time," she said.
School committee member Dr. Megan Douglas said she too was concerned about the health and wellness of Barrington students. She said health and wellness was the focus of the later start times for high school and middle school students.
But when Dr. Douglas contrasted the two issues — the safety of younger students walking home at a later time and the potential health benefits of a later start time for older students — she also drew some angry comments from the crowd.
"I hope I misunderstood that comment…" said one woman, who challenged that the well-being of one group of students should not be sacrificed for the benefit of another.
Barrington resident Nahum Mitnik said he was very concerned about having his children walk home in the dark. He also said school initiatives, such as the change in start times, should benefit all students, not just one group of students.
Barrington resident Anne Merlino said some school committee members were overlooking the well-being of younger students to ensure the later start time for older students.
"We're moving forward at all cost," she said.
Ms. Pine also responded to Dr. Douglas's comment, stating that the safety of the district's younger students should be paramount.
Barrington School Committee Chairwoman Kate Brody asked Superintendent Michael Messore if he could look at pairing a 9:15 start at Hampden Meadows with a 3:40 dismissal. Mr. Messore said he would have to examine how those times would impact the amount of instructional time offered at the elementary school.
A number of people asked the school committee to honor its previous commitment to the 8:30 a.m. start time. Erika Sevetson said it was important for the committee to stick with the science-based initiative.
Pam Lauria, a former candidate for the school committee, also urged the board to stay with the 8:30 a.m. start time, as did Scott Douglas. Mr. Douglas is the husband of school committee member Megan Douglas (she recused herself when he spoke during the meeting), and he said the costs associated with the start time change were less than other initiatives taken up by the district.
Pete Bilderback shared a personal story regarding the start times. He said his teenage son was struggling with getting to bed earlier, despite the family's efforts. He said his son's mind was more active later at night. He added that switching to later bedtimes was a biological change for teenagers.
"He needs a later start time," said Mr. Bilderback.
In addition to concerns raised over a later dismissal, one resident also challenged the district to improve the condition of the snow-covered sidewalks. She said too many students were being forced to walk in the roads because sidewalks were impassable.