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Ken-Ton schools change start, end times

A Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda schools committee recommended that the district's middle and high school students start classes five minutes earlier next year – and that elementary school pupils be dismissed 15 minutes earlier.

The recommendation by the committee of district workers, parents and Board of Education members was discussed by the school board at a meeting Tuesday.

Under the proposal, middle and high school students would be dismissed 15 minutes earlier next year as well.

Students at Kenmore East and Kenmore West now start school at 7:50 a.m. The committee recommended starting at 7:45 a.m. next year.

Students at elementary schools would be dismissed next year at 3:20 p.m., instead of the current 3:35 p.m.

Instruction time at the high school and middle school will be shortened by 10 minutes.

Interim Superintendent Stephen Bovino said both of these factors together will be positive for elementary school students, although they realize not everyone will be happy.

"No one program will make everyone happy," said Board President Jill O'Malley.

Consolidation of schools and expanded bus routes this year have resulted in later dismissals for elementary students in the school district. In some cases, elementary school dismissal times are nearly an hour later than in prior years.

"This was especially problematic for our elementary students," said Kenmore Teachers Association President Peter Stuhlmiller. "Our little kids at the elementary schools were getting off their buses at 4:30 in the afternoon."

He said in some cases children were falling asleep at school and parents were having problems fitting in activities, such as soccer or Scouts, as well as homework and dinner and getting children to bed by 8 p.m.

Two elementary schools and one middle school were closed, increasing the distance some students lived from the schools they attend, said Patrick Fanelli, the district's director of community relations, who co-chaired the committee to study the matter with Heather Lyon, director of elementary education.

But Fanelli said the biggest factor in the later dismissals was the expansion of bus eligibility.

District voters in May 2015 overwhelmingly approved a measure that would decrease the distance from school required before high school and middle school students were eligible to be transported by school buses. Because bus drivers had to tackle more routes, bus pick up times for elementary school students were later this year.

"There was a huge increase in the number of buses at the high schools – going from four or five buses to 15 regular buses," said Fanelli. "The voters overwhelmingly favored expanding mileage, but I don't think when that was discussed two years ago it was really understood what the impact would be on the start and end times."

He said the committee considered recommending a return to the former bus mileage restrictions or adding more buses, but instead made a recommendation to adjust the start and end of school days.

As part of the recommendation, the committee will continue to study the issue.

Colin Lynch, student representative on the school board, said the earlier arrival times this year at the high school and earlier time for next year affects students who come to school early for activities and athletics. He asked that a student be represented on the committee to address some of these issues.

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