2015-11-27 / Community News

Advisory committee to study school issues

Residents, administrators, staff and students will review start times and calendar
By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

A 40-plus member committee was formed in 2010 by the Scarborough Board of Education to help design and plan for a new school to replace the aging and increasingly inefficient Wentworth Intermediate School. Now, five years later, the board is taking a similar approach to tackle the issues of school start time and school calendar.

Last week, the board of education approved the formation of a 20-to-30 member advisory committee to come up with recommendations on school calendar and school start times. Board of education Chairman Donna Beeley said the group will include residents, school staff, school administrators and students.

“It entails quite a bit of work and will only be successful if we have all our stakeholders at the table,” Beeley said. The committee will be open to both residents who have children in the school system and those who do not.

Last spring, the board of education heard some uproar from parents concerned that a new school calendar that increased late start Wednesdays would negatively impact their family’s routines both in the morning and after school.

This fall, the board began looking into the possibility of pushing school start times back in an effort to allow middle and high school students more time to sleep in the morning. In October, the board of education met with school leaders from Scarborough and across southern Maine who are also examining delaying the start of school.

That change could impact parents as well as bus transportation and afterschool activities including athletics.

“We thought we would have an advisory group start with the calendar and it only made sense for that the committee would continue working on the school start time. They won’t be making decisions. The school board will. The committee will be in an advisory position,” Beeley said.

The hope, Beeley said, is to reach out to parents “to understand what type of impact it would have if we made some changes to school start time.”

Cari Lyford, who will be one of the two school board representatives on the advisory committee along with Kelly Murphy, said the committee will be an opportunity for parents to understand the research that has been done on the topic of why starting school later is better for high school and middle school students.

“Once parents see some of the research being done, I don’t think it’s going to be hard to see it is a good idea. The biggest challenge is making it work with busing and being in line with the other school district we have to coordinate with,” Lyford said.

Beeley said the hope is work can begin right after Thanksgiving and continue over the winter with the goal of presenting a series of recommendations at the Feb. 4 board of education meeting.

Beeley said it is “very possible” the advisory committee would be broken up into subcommittees like the Wentworth Building Committee.

“It still a work in progress,” Lyford said of how the advisory committee would work, adding there has been some talk about breaking the larger committee into smaller groups.

Beeley said changes to the school calendar or school start times most likely would not be implemented for the 2016-2017 school year.

“I don’t think it will happen that quickly because of the time they will devote to really look at this.”

Anyone interested in joining the committee can email Kelly Johnston, administrative assistant to Superintendent George Entwistle and Assistant Superintendent JoAnne Sizemore at kjohnston@scarboroughschools.org.

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