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School Start Time Changes On the Table in Mineola

District superintendent details three options, no decision yet

The last time a slew of options were on the docket for the Mineola School Board, it had to do with closing schools and moving grades which sent parents and residents into an uproar, both for and against. This time, school start times are up for alteration.

Start times for the buildings in the Mineola School District may have to be changed once again for next school year. District administrators presented three options to the public at a board of education meeting at the Willis Avenue School.

“I regret that it’s a problem that we have to move them again, but it has to happen,” Superintendent Dr. Michael Nagler said. “It could be as simple as changing one of the pre-K to two buildings and it should be a difference of about a half hour.”

The main cause for the shift is that the number of students being bussed next year will increase, according to Nagler, which primarily related to the final move as part of the district reconfiguration.  The reconfiguration included the closure of the Cross Street School this year and Willis Avenue next year.

Other than moving the time for one of the pre-K buildings, the high school start time could remain the same. The middle school would go back to its previous schedule from 7:49 a.m. to 2:41 p.m., Hampton Street School would stay from 8:12 a.m. to 2:49 p.m., Meadow Drive School would go from 8:42 a.m. to 3:19 p.m. and Jackson Avenue would run from 8:50 a.m. to 3:27 p.m.

“Those are approximate for the Jackson and the elementary, we’re still working on the exact minutes there,” Nagler said.

Option two would let the high school and middle school start times remain the same; Jackson would move to 8:12 a.m. to 2:49 p.m. Meadow and Hampton would both start at 8:48 a.m. and end at 3:25 p.m.

“We can start the two pre-K-twos schools at a later time. The issue with that is we go right back to the problem with Jackson Avenue dismissing at the same time as Chaminade [High School], which in the past has proven to be a mess,” Nagler stated.

Chaminade dismisses at 2:50 p.m.

Option three would move the high school start up to a later time and move the younger students to an earlier time. Hampton would start at 7:30 a.m. and end at 2:07 p.m., the high school would run from 7:54 a.m. to 2:46 p.m., the middle school from 8:20 a.m. to 3:12 p.m. and Jackson from 8:45 a.m. to 3:22 p.m.

The earliest bus stop in option three is 7 a.m.

“Obviously that’s a radical departure from what we do now,” said Nagler. “There is a lot of research that would support younger students going to school earlier since the majority of them are up and about and the majority of high school students are not.”

The later start time would be beneficial to the high school sports according to Nagler since “we have one of the earliest high school starts in the county. Buses would not be able to get to any sports team before 3:30 p.m., “because we’re busing the district until 3:30 no matter what configuration you have. The only bus we really need to move quickly on is the eighth grade going back to the middle school for the fields so we do accommodate those children because of the earlier dismissal there.”

According to Nagler, District Director of Transportation Bill Gillberg was comfortable with the timing of dismissal between Jackson Avenue and Chaminade for option one.

“Middle school, most of them line up on Garfield so you can avoid Chaminade, Jackson really can’t avoid it (because) you come down Saville. That’s the only way to get (in), even if we go to park our buses on Marcellus, the number of buses we have now really won’t work.”

Trustee John McGrath questioned, “push back” from the teachers union and staff, whose contract is currently in negotiation phases. McGrath said right now, staff leaves at 2:18 p.m. at the high school, and one of the options proposes 2:46 p.m.

“The fact that they may have an issue with it doesn’t mean we can’t do it or shouldn’t do it,” McGrath said. “I guess we have to have some discussion about it.”

Board Vice President William Hornberger pointed out that bell time is a contractual issue and has to be negotiated with the union.

“I’d like to think that we would make decisions in the best interest of children,” Nagler said. “What I hear from parents this year is they need before school care and after school care because they need to get to work.

“One piece at a time,” said Nagler about the process of changing start times. “We have to decide which option to go with first and then we can pursue it. I’m not going to pursue it if it’s going to be a dead end.”