Changing CHS start time too costly in this year's budget

Changing CHS start time too costly in this year's budget

Lambi alone in rejecting $290,000 payout to schools

CUMBERLAND - As expected, the Town Council came through last Wednesday with the second installment of the $1 million promise to the School Committee, approving $290,000 on top of the $710,000 approved last fall.

The vote was 6 to 1 with Councilor-at-large Art Lambi opposed.

And no surprise either last week, the following night the school board members ditched plans to start the high school an hour later this fall. The $450,000 cost of putting the needed eight more buses on the road was too great, they said.

Member Craig Duffy, who headed up the campaign to start school at 8:15 a.m., did say he hopes the cost can be folded into the 2014-15 budget.

This year's decision will force rescheduling of CHS classes. Principal Alan Tenreiro had optimistically offered some course offerings for the time slot before 8:15 a.m. that found plenty of students signing up.

At a quick meeting Thursday, Duffy read from a prepared statement that said, "Research conducted on other districts clearly show later start times have an immediate and positive impact on students, and this School Committee and this community cannot afford to overlook this data.

"With that being said, the current proposal presented by Dr. Thornton last week to start later at the high school would have cascading results on the elementary schools, middle schools, high school walking distances, as well as having a financial impact on the district. The proposal discussed last week to create a later start time at the high school would have, in essence, placed one group of students' needs ahead of another group of students needs and that is not something we are prepared to do."

Among the options abandoned was a plan for sending middle school students to classes at 7:30 a.m. or to see some elementary schools get started as late at 9:20 a.m.

Beaulieu indicated the committee will work on alternatives for transporting the town's schoolchildren in 2014.

Supt. Philip Thornton hadn't taken last Wednesday's Town Council vote for granted. He brought a team of educators to provide council members with brief descriptions of what they've accomplished with the $1 million.

The biggest chunk, slightly more than half, was invested in an all-day kindergarten program.

Teacher Allison Mudge showed that 92 percent of students are fluent in phonemic segmentation compared to 80 percent last year when kindergarten was a half-day only. They're also 90 percent fluent in letter sounds compared to just 62 percent in 2011. The test wasn't given last year.

Lambi's opposition to fulfilling the $1 million made by the prior council was "a business decision," he said.

Lambi noted the School Department had a $1 million surplus at the end of the 2012 school year, so he wondered if the new money "shouldn't be handed over."

Lambi asked Chairwomen Lisa Beaulieu, Vice Chairman Jeff Mutter and Supt. Thornton to "focus as much on the financial aspect of the School Department as we are spending on the test scores."