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School days may end early next year for Ken-Ton students, but start earlier for high schoolers

A Kenmore-Tonawanda schools committee has 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 is expected to be discussed by the school board at its meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Philip Sheridan Community Room, 3200 Elmwood Ave.

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

Consolidation of schools and expanded bus routes this year have resulted in later dismissals for elementary students in the Kenmore-Tonawanda School District. In some cases, elementary school dismissal times are nearly an hour later than 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 kids 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 then get their child 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, director of community relations, who co-chaired the committee to study start and end times 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 was 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.

Students at Ken-East and Ken-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.

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