Revising School Start Times

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Published November 4, 2015

By Shauli Bar-On

Following several meetings with the community and administration, HHS parent Sharlene Liu’s pursuit for a later school start time has gained much more attention since she first formed the Change.org petition in September.

Four FUHSD schools were represented at the most recent public brainstorming meeting last Thursday. Colleene Vandevoorde, Liu’s cohort in the effort and parent of former HHS students, said she is pleased with current progress.

“We are encouraged that [the administration is] taking it very seriously,” Vandevoorde said.

Members of School board who attended the informational meetings expressed their openness to gathering information in order to make an informed decision.

“All the school-board members [and] administration are very much interested and focused on what is best for the students,” board member Bill Wilson said.

Board President Barbara Nunez and school board member Nancy Newton were among those at the meetings and have spoken with Liu to advise her on how to progress.  

Following talks with board members, Liu said she was informed that the board will make the final decision after the issue is discussed with the teacher’s union, the Fremont Education Association (FEA).

“The first step is to educate the community,” Liu said.

Liu said she met with Principal Greg Giglio last week to discuss a possible lecture by Stanford sleep researcher Dr. Rafael Paleo.

“[Giglio] is empowering us to move forward if we want to,” Liu said.

Giglio, who said he is open to the doctor talking to the community, is also in the process of conducting a survey amongst the staff to see if they are in favor of a future shift in the schedule.

FEA is not the only group that must approve the change before the board. The Classified School Employees Association (CSEA), which consists of custodians, administration workers and cafeteria workers will also be asked to weigh in.

The district office, Superintendent Polly Bove said, is in the process of forming a group of teachers, classified staff, parents, students and athletic coordinators from the entire district to ensure all voices are heard. Several other logistics, such as adjusting after-school activities and bus schedules, will also need to be addressed, Daffern said.

According to information discussed at public meetings, the main issues associated with moving start times from the parent and student perspective are the regulation of traffic before and after school, dealing with student work schedules and scheduling sibling care for students’ younger siblings.

“The schedule has changed quite a bit [at HHS],” 20-year CSEA member and lead negotiator Nancy Daffern said.

The school used to have a zero period starting at 7 a.m. Following the zero period’s removal, the start time was 7:20 a.m. until the block schedule was introduced, shifting it to 7:50 a.m., Daffern said.

“When we went to block schedule it was a big hairy deal,” HHS’s School Financial Specialist, Daffern said. “FEA worked tirelessly on all the issues.”

“There will be many issues to consider when working on moving our schedule, including the possible hardships for employees working out of the area who commute long distances,” Bove said in an email. “…This issue of a long commute is one shared by a number of teachers and administrators as well as classified employees.”

The next brainstorming meeting is set to take place tonight.

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