Parents flunk school board over change in start times at high school

The school board in the Annapolis Valley is being accused of making a "mockery" of the wishes of parents and students after its elected members voted this week to move the start time at a local high school from 8 a.m. to 9:05 a.m.

The hours will change at a number of schools in western Kings County in September 2018. The most dramatic shift is at West Kings District High School in Auburn where students will start class 65 minutes later and finish the day 85 minutes later than they do now.

The Annapolis Valley Regional School Board has said the move will save it money by allowing it to combine middle school and high school bus routes. But the decision has upset many parents.

"I'm very disappointed because I feel they focused on minimal research," said Karen Casey, the mother of three students, including one that will start at West Kings next year.

Casey lives in Lake Paul. She has two younger children and said they will have to spend more time on the bus as it travels around to pick up high school students as well.

Save $33K/year

By switching the West Kings morning start times from 8 a.m. to 9:05 a.m. and the afternoon departure times from 2 p.m. to 3:25 p.m., the school board estimates it will save $33,392 a year. School bus travel in the rural area would be reduced by 44,500 kilometres a year.

But what has many parents upset is that a public consultation done by the board showed 90 per cent of people did not support the changes.

As well, 94 per cent of West Kings students surveyed last year also did not support the move, and some have worried the later departure time will cut into part-time jobs they hold after school.

"The board put itself through the expense and effort to have that public consultation but at the end of the day it just seemed like the decision had already been made," said parent Glenn Joudrey. "Ninety per cent was a pretty clear answer, so the decision is a mockery."

Vote not unanimous

Three school board members voted against changing the school start times at a meeting Wednesday night, including Jackie Foster, whose district includes West Kings. She told CBC News she could not comment due to a school board policy that does not allow board members to discuss issues after they have been voted on.

School board chair Lavinia Parrish-Zwicker, who voted in favour of the changes, has not yet responded to interview requests.

One former school board member, a former principal at West Kings for 10 years, is speaking out.

"Everybody used to like the schedule," said Vic Fleury. "It functioned well and it was good for students and it was good for teachers involved in extracurricular events after school."

Many West Kings students have taken advantage of the earlier dismissal times by taking part-time jobs in the late afternoon.

"We've been hiring students for 30 years," said Dawn Chiasson of Johnson's Stonehenge Farms in Aylesford. "It gives me a little bit of a cushion on labour and it gives the kids some extra money if they're looking at university or that kind of thing."