NEWARK – An online petition aims to reverse school hour changes made by Worcester County Public Schools.
In response to the news that school day hours would be extended at some northern Worcester County schools, parents are now signing an online petition asking for the changes to be reversed.
“While I understand how important education is, the extension of school hours for children is too long,” writes parent Heather Parenti on the petition page. “Please put school hours back to the way they used to be! An extra 50 minutes is too long for kids. Not to mention they won’t be home until dark.”
According to Carrie Sterrs, the school system’s coordinator of public relations and special programs, the change was made this summer.
“The adjustments made for those schools in the northern region were to bus arrival and departure times,” she said. “This change was implemented to maximize the time students were already present in school for instruction.”
She said the adjustment at Stephen Decatur High School, for example, changed the bus arrival time period from 7:15-7:50 a.m. to 7:20-7:30 a.m. and the bus departure period from 2:47-3:05 p.m. to 2:50 p.m. For Stephen Decatur Middle School, bus arrival times will now be 7:20 a.m. (from 7:15-7:35 a.m.) and departure will be 2:40 p.m. (from 2:50-3 p.m.). At Berlin Intermediate School, buses will now arrive at 7:35 a.m. (from 7:25-7:45 a.m.) and leave at 2:55 p.m. (from 2:38-2:42 p.m.)
At the elementary school level, the before adjustment times varied but all bus riders will now be arriving at school at 8:50 a.m. and departing at 4:10 p.m. (compared to an average of 8:30 a.m. arrival and 3:40 departure).
“As you can see the adjustment shortens those bus arrival/departure windows to maximize instructional time,” Sterrs said. “At the elementary level, the bus arrival and departure times were narrowed as with the high school example but were also shifted by 5-10 minutes to accommodate the double runs of our bus fleet.”
Parenti, however, started the online petition a week ago because of concerns about the changes. So far, about 140 people have signed it. Parenti wrote on the petition Friday that she’d spoken with Dee Shorts, chief academic officer for prekindergarten through eighth grade.
“She apologized that this was not properly communicated to parents,” Parenti wrote. “I was told that this was done due to the staggering buses and that the kids were losing instructional time because of it. Now all the buses will be able to get there on time… There has to be another solution to the bus situation! Our children do not need more instructional time they need time to just simply be kids.”
When asked if the change was COVID-19 related, Sterrs said it was not.
“This has been a change a few years in the making,” she said. “The shift in times was primarily communicated directly to families by the affected schools, as the times vary from school to school, and we didn’t want families confused by providing them with all the times in a single county-level communication… this was an adjustment just for the northern region schools, but it is to address a discrepancy in instructional time between the northern schools and those in the Snow Hill and Pocomoke areas. This adjustment brings the schools’ instructional times in line with the rest of the county.”