Parents collect signatures opposing new school times

Parents who oppose recently changed school times plan to present a petition to Putnam County School District board members next week. 

“I hope they would acknowledge 1,000 signatures,” said Shirley Basel, a parent of a Putnam fifth-grader and paraprofessional at Interlachen High. “Maybe they will retract their decision.”

As of Tuesday, a change.org petition opposing recently changed school times had 972 supporters. 

On May 2, the school board voted 3-1 to make 2017-2018 elementary school hours 7:50 a.m.-2:35 p.m.; high school hours 9 a.m.-3:45 p.m.; and middle school hours 9:10 a.m.-3:55 p.m. 

Nikki Cummings opposed the changes and David Buckles was absent. 

The time change would essentially flip the schedules of district elementary and secondary schools. 

District leaders, with the support of all of the district’s high school principals and some elementary school principals, proposed the changes, presenting data showing later start times for secondary students would help improve test scores and attendance, and result in better health outcomes. 

But Basel said she’s worried about the safety of elementary students who would be boarding school buses in the dark during early morning hours and possibly arriving at bus stops after school without the supervision of older siblings, because older siblings would still be in school.

“They should have had a program in place for after-school programs before even considering (the new school hours),” Basel said. “There could be sexual predators, sexual offenders preying on students at these bus stops. … Does someone have to become a victim before they realize?”

Basel said she’s also talked with high school students who are concerned about cutting hours at work because school would be released later. She said many students work to help feed their families.

“I had one boy tell me not only is worried about not being home for his younger sibling after school, but he’s worried about not working enough hours to help his mom pay bills,” Basel said. 

Basel said dual-enrolled high school students are concerned the new schedule would not meet the availability of college courses in the fall. 

“With all of the robo-calls we get … they couldn’t let the parents know what they were thinking about doing?” Basel said. “They should’ve made parents a part of the process. I feel they didn’t want parent input. I feel like, as a parent, our opinion doesn’t matter.”

On Tuesday, with the support of parents and the petition, Basel said she hopes to convince the school board to rescind their decision to change the school times for the upcoming school year. 

As of Tuesday, board secretary Sharon Cormeny said, Basel was not on the May 23 school board agenda. 

The board meeting begins at 3:30 p.m. at 200 Reid St. in Palatka.

Palatka Daily News

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