2005-09-01 / News

Wake up! You’re late for school!

By Donna K. Drago

Wake up! You’re late for school!

By the time they read this paper today, some teens and their parents will realize that they were late for the first day of school.

Although a new Jamestown bus schedule had been prepared and published some weeks ago, North Kingstown school officials decided late last Wednesday night that they were going to begin high school in that town 10 minutes earlier, at 7:05 a.m., which means that the first bus pickups for high schoolers today will be in the vicinity of 6:20 a.m., arriving at North Kingstown High School by 6:50 a.m.

Jamestown School Committee Chairwoman Cathy Kaiser, who was at the North Kingstown school panel meeting, told her fellow school board members, “I argued strenuously against this,” citing studies that say that teens are already sleep deprived and should probably start school even later.

The earlier starting times will not affect the elementary student bus schedule at all.

At its Aug. 25 meeting, Kaiser told the school board that because of the closure this year of Wickford Elementary School, North Kingstown had to add two more bus routes to get everyone to other schools, and it looked like some elementary students would not be able to get home until 3:30 p.m.

Kaiser said that Janice DeFrances, a NK school board member who is also the principal of a school in Narragansett, argued that there are problems with children getting out that late, especially in the winter when it is nearly dark at that time. She made a motion to begin the high school earlier so that the elementary students could get home earlier, Kaiser said.

The vote passed, Kaiser explained, adding that some members of the NK school board who had researched school starting times with a national expert last year were not present at the meeting.

“This would not have happened if the full committee was at the meeting,” Kaiser said.

A high school teacher in Attleboro, Mass., Kaiser said that at 7:15 a.m., the starting time at her school, “half of my students have their heads on their desks.” She noted, “Most of them don’t become alert until 8:30 or 9 a.m.”

“It’s a waste to have first period, really,” Kaiser said.

She added that she understood that the vote pitted “elementary safety against high school start times,” and that the younger students needs were considered to be more important.

“But, we all agree on the concept that high schools should start later,” Kaiser added.

Since the Aug. 25 meeting, Superintendent Kathy Sipala said that she was working hard to make sure everyone was aware of the new bus schedule.

The high school sent out postcards to every registered student and the new schedule was passed out at the freshman orientation on Monday night, she said. Sipala said the new information was on the schools’ Web site and “hanging just about everywhere” in town.

Sipala said that she was confident that everyone has been made aware of the new schedule. “But we told North Kingstown to expect that we might be late” on the first day, she added.

In other business, the School Committee:

• Elected Cathy Kaiser as chairwoman, Julie Kallfelz as vice-chairwoman, and James Filkins as clerk for the current term. Committee liaison appointments include William “Bucky” Brennan to the school facilities committee and to the North Kingstown School Committee, Julie Kallfelz to the Lawn School Improvement Team and to Southern Rhode Island Collaborative, Jim Filkins to the Melrose School Improvement Team, Julia Held to the Special Education Local Advisory Committee (SELAC), and Cathy Kaiser as the legislative developments representative.

• Approved several staff appointments, including Erin Covell, grade 3; Thomas Carney, grade 7 English; Carole Melucci, grade 2 special education; Jennifer Caswell, long-term substitute; Sonya Bieler, grade 7 and 8 resource teacher assistant; Jane Doyle, teacher assistant at Melrose; Norma Gervais, grade 5 and 6 resource teacher assistant; Colleen MacIntyre, temporary teacher assistant. Diane Wright is the yearbook advisor, and Kelly Speck is the cross-country coach.

The committee accepted resignations from Kaitlyn Downing and Ginny Perry.

• Recognized Ginny Perry for her many years as a grade 2 teacher assistant, a president of the Jamestown Educational Support Personnel Association (JESPA), and a member of SELAC.

Superintendent Sipala said that Perry “served her school very well,” and read a comment from Perry’s file written by former superintendent Frances Gallo, who wrote, “Ginny’s heart is always with the children.”

• Adopted School Committee goals determined at an Aug. 18 retreat.

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