Possible change in school times to be considered


FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP – A change in school times could be back on the table in the Freehold Township K-8 School District.

Earlier this year district administrators considered making changes in the start and end times for the district’s schools for the 2007-08 school year.

Parents reacted angrily to the proposed changes and convinced administrators and the Board of Education to leave things as they were.

However, according to a letter from Superintendent of Schools William Setaro that was sent home with students on Dec. 7, district officials “will be holding informational sessions to explore the possibility of making changes to the school day schedule for the 2008-09 school year.”

Informational sessions have already been held at the Catena School (Dec. 13) and the Applegate School (Dec. 18).

Upcoming informational sessions – which are not school specific – are scheduled for Dec. 19 (Barkalow Middle School media center, 7 p.m.); Jan. 3, (Errickson School media center, 1 p.m.); Jan. 7 (Donovan School media center, 7 p.m.); Jan. 17 (West Freehold School media center, 9 a.m.); Jan. 23 (Eisenhower Middle School media center, 7 p.m.); and Jan. 30 (Early Childhood Learning Center/Board of Education offices conference room, 7 p.m.)

Residents are invited to attend the meeting that best suits their schedule.

Dawn Gravatt, the public information officer for the school district, said the examination of the schools’ instructional schedules is not related to the district’s budget.

“We are looking to improve transportation efficiency and to examine the impact of the current instructional schedule on co-curricular activities and afterschool activities,” she said.

According to Setaro’s letter to parents, “We recognize that this is an important issue to you and your family and invite you to contribute to discussions surrounding any changes that may be made. Your voice will help us guide our recommendations through the planning stages.”

Setaro said Assistant Superintendent Sandra Brower and Business Administrator Brian Boyle along with members of the district staff will guide the discussions. Administrators hope to have recommendations for changes by the end of February. Any recommendations that


may be made will go to the school board for consideration and final approval.

In his letter, Setaro acknowledged that “any change to school start and end times will affect everyone in some way … Together, we hope that community members, parents, staff and students will work collaboratively to identify and solve any concerns that might arise.”

The superintendent said, “the focus of the meetings will be to gain an understanding of the issues of our current school start/end times and to develop a framework that outlines parameters that our school community would find acceptable.”

At the present time, the instructional day at the Applegate, Donovan, Errickson and West Freehold elementary schools runs from 8 a.m. to 2:20 p.m.

The instructional day at the Catena School runs from 8:40 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The instructional day at the Barkalow and Eisenhower middle schools runs from 8:25 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Under the proposal put forth by the school board earlier this year – which was not implemented – the instructional day at the Applegate, West Freehold and Errickson elementary schools would have been from 7:45 a.m. to 2:05 p.m.

The instructional day at the Donovan and Catena elementary schools would have been from 9:15 a.m. to 3:35 p.m.

The instructional day at the Barkalow and Eisenhower middle schools would have been from 8:30 a.m. to 2:50 p.m.

Parents who spoke at a Feb. 13 board meeting in opposition to the change in school times expressed concern about asking children to be ready to perform in class at an earlier hour; about having children at bus stops in the dark winter morning hours; about children having to wait at home wasting time for several hours in the morning after waking up and before their bus came; about the impact later arrivals home would have on the children’s participation in afterschool activities; and about the effect a change would have on children’s health and education.

Many of the people who spoke at that meeting identified themselves as parents of children who attend or would attend the Donovan and Catena schools.

Setaro said fewer bus drivers would have been needed because of the change in school times and the result would have been a savings of $500,000 to the K-8 district in the transportation department.