BPS to reconsider new school start times after parent backlash

Boston Public Schools announced new start times that prompted criticism from many parents. Now, BPS says it wants to find solutions to those concerns.
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After BPS announced new school start times, many parents pushed back. Photo: Nicolaus Czarnecki

After thousands of parents expressed concerns over the newly announced Boston Public Schools start times, the district said that it will reconsider the changes to take those concerns into account.

 

BPS Superintendent Tommy Chang, in a letter sent to district families on Friday, said that the school committee “believes the start and end times policy is a sound one,” but that “BPS is committed to addressing the input we’ve received and trying to find solutions to concerns that have been raised.”

 

Start times were changed in order to allow high school students to start their day later, as research has shown this improves high school students’ academic performance, and so that elementary school students can get home earlier.

 

Most high schools were pushed back to a start time after 8 a.m., while many elementary schools were moved up to a 7:30 or 7:15 start time — a two-hour change for some families. That new first bell means some young kids will be dismissed as early as 1:15, resulting in more expensive after-school care for working families, parents said.

 

After those changes were announced, more than 8,000 people have signed an online petition asking BPS to stop the changes from immediately taking effect.

In the letter to the school community, BPS said that the new schedule will not be finalized until mid-January.

“BPS hopes this additional time will allow the district to work through issues that have been shared regarding start and end times,” Chang wrote in the letter. “In order to do this, we need your help. We ask that you join us at one of 10 meetings we are holding next week. We look forward to discussing constructive solutions with our school communities.”

Erin Birmingham of Start Smart BPS, a group of parents who oppose the time changes, said that Start Smart BPS reviewed the letter.

"While we are thankful that the pleas of our community are being heard, the letter was far from reassuring," she said in an email. "It seems next to impossible that the required changes can be addressed in the time frame stated by BPS. We ask again — what’s the rush? Halt the process, and do it right."

Birmingham noted that Start Smart BPS hasn't been told how the school district will address how the bell changes disproportionately harm families of color, as outlined in a statement by the Boston NAACP, the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, and the East Boston Ecumencial Community Council.

"It is shameful that BPS turned an opportunity to do right by our high school students into a justification for unrelated cuts that harm our youngest children,” the three groups wrote in a letter on Thursday. “The decision made by the administration and School Committee is not racially equitable and is likely to bring significant harm to children and families of color across the city of Boston. Equity demands that this decision be reconsidered."

Boston City Council President Michelle Wu said on Twitter that she would vote down the BPS budget if the Boston School Committee proceeds with the new start times as they now stand.

Priority school enrollment registration for next year begins Jan. 3. If the start times of schools chosen by families during that time are adjusted, families will have the opportunity to make adjustments to their choices until Feb. 9.

 
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