In January 2016, the Barrington School Committee approved changes to the school schedules, primarily to adopt later start times at the middle and high school. Like many school districts across the country, Barrington has undertaken this initiative in response to a growing body of research, about the personal and academic benefits of later sleep time for adolescents. Although start time has been deferred, the District is committed to revisiting a change in schedules based on research-based health and wellness benefits for our students. With a new strategic plan in place, the findings from the ad-hoc advisory committee, the well-documented research, and a new decisional process in draft, the District is poised to continue its planning for the implementation of new school schedules aligned to best-practices.
During the 2018-2019 school year, the District will utilize its new decisional process, aligned to the goals of the strategic plan, to provide an opportunity for the Superintendent to call together a task force to provide implementation recommendations relative to the District's new transportation report, student activities, fiscal impacts, and educational needs.
From the previous work, several challenges were identified. These challenges included, but are not limited to:
After school activity, sports, and jobs for secondary school students
Transportation costs and times
Start and end times for elementary schools
Importantly, because of several of the findings that came out of the work of the advisory committee, the District was able to address the needs of the community in several important ways. The District now is able to provide onsite childcare at our PK-5 buildings. In addition, stronger partnerships have been developed with the town and other partners in the ability to create flexible schedules for athletics. In addition, a new transportation report May 2018 has informed the District of opportunities for efficiencies in bus run times and has demonstrated the possibility for a cost-effective two-tier bus system.
As the District believes that the health benefits are important for our students, it is continuing to work to address the above noted challenges in the development of solutions for new school schedules.
The School Committee established a charge for the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee that includes three specific areas of work: gathering stakeholder input, identifying implementation factors (such as implications for transportation, athletics, after-school activities, staffing, finances, and other factors), and researching lessons learned from comparable initiatives in other school districts.
The group serves in an advisory capacity to the Superintendent to support the decision of the School Committee and, as such, has no administrative, legislative or policy-making authority. Its work is designed to review and supplement preliminary implementation plans developed by the school district over the past year. The committee is charged with presenting its recommendations to the Superintendent by November 1, 2016.
The School Start Time Advisory Committee represents a variety of stakeholder groups affected by the changes in school schedules, including parents, students, teachers, administrators, and community members. Its members applied for the positions and were selected based on a rubric established by the School Committee.
School Committee Members: Anna Clancy
District Officials: Superintendent Michael B. Messore III; Ronald Tarro, Director of Administration and Finance; George Finn, Director of Athletics and Student Transportation
Principals: Jim Callahan; Tracey McGee; Andy Anderson; Joe Hurley
Teachers: Mary Roberts and William Barrass
Parents: Maraidh Thomson; Stephen Buka; Scott Douglas; Rachel Baldwin
Students: Sam Read and Christopher Sarli
Community Member: Maura McCrann
The Advisory Committee has been meeting regularly since July 2016 to discuss, among other matters:
The benefits and challenges associated with the new start times;
Benchmarks from other districts in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine that have implemented later start times;
Findings from surveys conducted by Challenge Success;
Preliminary bus transportation plans;
Alternative schedules for common planning time and other faculty meetings;
Adjustments to athletics programs, including games and practices, as well as community use of fields and athletics facilities;
Impact on other extra-curricular activities;
Options for before and after-school child care;
Each stakeholder group represented on the committee (e.g., parents, students, teachers, administrators) also had an opportunity to raise specific challenges and concerns to be addressed in the final report.
The committee also has discussed the importance of ongoing communication with families, staff, and the community about plans for implementation of the schedule changes. They are developing a range of communications strategies, including information to be distributed to parents, ongoing website updates, opportunities for public engagement, and regular updates to the community.
The committee, which met every other week during the summer, now will begin meeting weekly in order to complete its final report.