School Time Change Options Shake Montville Budget Process

Board considers three proposals for rearranging times of all district schools.

Upon the request of Montville Township Board of Education members, Superintendent Dr. Paul Fried presented two more options Tueday for rearranging times at district schools to shorten the Robert R. Lazar Middle School day.

Board members have been discussing shortening the Lazar day for more than a year based on recommendations of parents so that the students could have more time after school to get their homework done and participate in extra-curricular activities without staying up too late. Currently, students dismiss at 3:40 p.m. from Lazar.

The time change proposals need to be taken under consideration as part of the budget process because of the costs associated with additional buses required under new times. The first proposal, which the majority of board members seemed to favor, would cost approximately $125,000 which would be added to the budget. With the $68,239,911 preliminary budget approved Tuesday night, which came in under the 2 percent spending increase cap, taxes on the average assessed home in Montville would increase by approximately $89.68 in the 2013-14 school year.

Under the first proposal, both the high school school day and Lazar school day would each be reduced by five minutes, elementary schools would remain as is but Lazar would dismiss at 3:15 p.m. Elementary schools would start at 8:10 a.m. and dismiss at 2:45 p.m.; the high school would start at 7:25 a.m. and dismiss at 2:10 p.m. and Lazar would start at 8:30 a.m. and dismiss at 3:15 p.m. This would require between four and five additional buses.

The second proposal has the length of the elementary school remaining the same, with Lazar and the high school still reduced by five minutes, but the elementary schools beginning at 8:50 a.m. and dismissing at 3:25 p.m. and Lazar dismissing at 2:45 p.m. The high school would dismiss at 2:10 p.m. and the proposal would require a minimum of 10 buses at a cost of at least $250,000.

Under the third proposal, which some board members also favored, Lazar would dismiss at 2:45 p.m., elementary schools would start at 9:05 a.m. and dismiss at 3:40 p.m. and the high school would dismiss at 2:10 p.m. Both the high school and Lazar school days would be reduced by five minutes. The third proposal would cost at least $100,000 with the need for at least four buses.

Board members and parents seemed mixed on which proposal was best for the district. Member John Morella said he did not think the impact of the first proposal, ending the Lazar school day 25 minutes earlier, was significant enough.

"Twenty five minutes are not going to help," he said.

Board Member Carmela Novi said she thought that the third proposal could create more issues for other parents and students.

"I'm sympathetic of the Lazar students," she said. "I'm not sure that proposal 3 doesn't just dump a whole new set of problems on the younger kids."

Both Jackie Ritschel and Board President Dr. Karen Cortellino said they would prefer to see the high school day begin later rather than earlier, but Cortellino said she preferred the first proposal as well.

Pine Brook resident Heidi Calcagno said she was concerned about the elementary start time included in the third proposal. 

"A 9:05 start time is a nightmare for working parents," she said.

When asked which option he thought would be best for the district, Fried said that ultimately he felt the first proposal would be best, even with only a 25-minute difference.

"I think it's a better step for us now and perhaps moving us toward a better step in the future," he said.

None of the options were chosen yet by the board but the next budget presentation, in which the school times will continue to be discussed, will be held on March 21 at 7 p.m. at Montville Township High School.

Mary March 09, 2013 at 02:21 PM
You obviously don't have children at the elementary school level which is why I am certain you could care less how it affects other people. As I have said before, I am not opposed to changing the start times of school (and you obviously can't read either since I NEVER said that they shouldn't) I do however think that 9:05 is too late for ANYONE who has a job to get to. And while MEDLC is a solution - it's not necessarily a viable one for some people. I am so happy for you that you have the money to pay for your children to be taken care of by someone else. There are a whole lot of other people who don't!
Louise March 10, 2013 at 04:38 AM
I have no idea how every working adult with children handles the problem of elementary schools starting at 9:00, but somehow they manage because most do! Don't you think it's odd that our town is bass ackwards from everyone else? I have wanted this changed since my children were little, before they even started school. This isn't about me or you. It's about the recommendation, Mary. It's about what's best for the kids. No one will want to change just the Lazar time because of the increased cost. Flipping the schedules is the most cost effective option that solves the problem of the middle schoolers getting hime at 4:15. Think long term. You're going to pay one way or another. Taxes on a go-forward or extra MEDLC hours for a few years. The End.
Maxim Sapozhnikov March 10, 2013 at 02:35 PM
Louise & Mary: Could you please ask your children and convey their opinion to the forum? It looks like we do plenty of things "for the children" without actually asking what they want or prefer.
Libby March 12, 2013 at 02:35 AM
I agree. There is a high rate of unemployment at the moment and for working parents to lose their jobs over the starting time of school is not acceptable. In corporate America employees have to pay more for less coverage with our health insurance plans, increasing commuting costs, and in return be grateful that we even have a job instead of getting a raise to meet the cost of living increase. It's bad enough that Montville property taxes have increased well over 50% in 10 years and a lot of the services that were included in the property taxes are now additional fees (sewer, school buses, etc.), and doing this too will make it impossible for some parents to keep their jobs. A 13 year old 7th grader in most cases is capable of taking care of him/herself for 30 minutes in the morning while a 5 year old kindergarten student is not. Again, more costs for the residents in the form of childcare. I hope the food pantry is well stocked because the burden put on the residents is going to break some of us.
poptart April 02, 2013 at 12:19 AM
I had two go through Lazar. It is very very difficult to get homework completed and do sports. And of course, the kids who do sports are not going to quit. Sports and other after school activities are also important. I two more that will be starting elementary school. I also would hate a late start, but will deal with it if it happens. Too bad they can't have the high school and the middle school start at the same time.


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